by Walter Chaw A lean, mean, pleasantly unpleasant little clockwork from first-time director E.L. Katz, Cheap Thrills feels and acts like the best kind of noir--the kind where you don't like anyone very much. Reuniting Pat Healy and Sara Paxton from The Innkeepers (another movie that disproves the maxim that genre film is in trouble), this is a fairly stunning, if a bit on the nose, parable of our recessionary state, as car mechanic/aspiring writer Craig (Healy) is faced with the eviction of his young family from their tiny apartment and a layoff from his already-not-paying-enough job. Drinking his sorrows away at a bar, he runs into an old buddy, Vince (a fantastic Ethan Embry), and an odd couple, Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Paxton), celebrating Violet's birthday. Mysteriously wealthy, it seems that Colin is looking to solve the puzzle of what to get the impossibly pretty younger wife who has everything, and the answer is to stage a series of increasingly sadistic stunts between Craig and Vince for various bounties. $200 for saying something to the meth-addict at the bar to make her slap you; $500 if you hit the strip-club bouncer first. The stakes escalate, tensions rise, and it all ends with probably the single best expression of the current state of manhood in the lower-middle-class United States circa 2013.