Thoroughbreds (R) ★★★

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy appear in Thoroughbred by Cory Finley.

Director’s Sharp Lens Keeps Us Watching

We all know teens do get into trouble, but how about murder? The awful step-dad, Mark (Paul Sparks) just ‘has’ to vanish from existence, and upper-class Lily’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) reconnection with her childhood friend Amanda (Olivia Cooke) is the perfect ticket. Amanda is full of devious plans and dark ideas; she blackmails a drug dealer Tim (the late, Anton Yelchin, of Star Trek fame who passed away shortly after making this film) to do the deed. You’ll certainly appreciate the excellent acting by all here with the addition of a shrewd, sharp, witty script.

This dark comedy, powers through a quickly paced narrative and is very engaging; although somewhat difficult to view as the teen’s conversations are psychopathically twisted. Both teens are troubled and find solace in their new re-acquaintance. Amanda states she doesn’t feel any emotions anymore, the girls explore the whys along with the idea of − is it really that big of a problem? Apparently not to them, because it’s very clear that the problem is step-dad Mark.

Director Cory Finley, in his first film, gives us a tense an evenly based film with light-hearted moments and chilling terror. Tone is a huge component here; the toggling between dark humor and psychotic is no easy feat. Finley shows remarkable promise as a filmmaker.

What’s strange is that Mark is not a monster, don’t expect to see any abusive step-dad scenes—his only crime—he’s annoying, and he’s a wild animal trophy hunter. Which makes the banter between the girls even more bizarre. Tim’s character doesn’t serve much purpose to the story except to accentuate the difference between the girl’s luxury living and his need to hustle for a dime. Speaking of Tim, (Yelchin) he’s mesmerizing to watch in every scene, what a sad loss.

You may be wondering about the title, it does relate to the horses that are stabled in the upscale neighborhood. It also serves as a reminder of an off-kilter incident that happened involving Amanda’s horse. Told through gruesome, bloody flashbacks to viewers, we are aghast at the details. We also learn that most of the kids at school know—causing Amanda to be cold-shouldered at school.

Yes, we are shocked, but as the film begins to reach its arch, we start to realize that Lily is the one who’s using Amanda for her own wicked deeds and thus the craziness reaches its climax. Again, there’s a fine line here that could go either way and under Finley’s direction we are intrigued and outraged at the same time which is no easy task.

The Bottom Line: Although disturbing to watch privileged teens waste away their time on scheming a murder, we can’t look away due to a director’s sharp lens.