Thoroughbreds is an incredibly well-crafted neo-noir thriller with snappy dialogue, fluid pacing, a simple setting and superb performances by all involved. This may partially be because it was originally written as a play by the film’s writer/director Cory Finley, but that he left it as is and didn’t try to go bigger when deciding to bring it to the silver-screen shows that Finley has a natural instinct for great storytelling and will very likely be a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood moving forward.
The film stars Olivia Cooke as Amanda, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily, two childhood friends who begin to reconnect after growing apart over the years and now live very different lives. First up is Amanda, a social outcast who is dealing with the repercussions of something she did that was morally questionable to many, but something she saw as an act of mercy. You see, Amanda doesn’t feel things emotionally. While she became a master imitator of feelings growing up in an attempt to fit in, she’s now a straight shooter, bluntly saying what’s on her mind without filter – especially around Lily.
Ah, Lily, the polar opposite of Amanda. The two begin their reconnection because Amanda’s mom contacts Lily asking her to tutor Amanda and try to get her life back on track. You see, Lily has gone on to become a fancy, upper-class teen who attends and excels in boarding school, lives in a mansion, has housekeepers, riding lessons, and seemingly the perfect life. But Amanda sees through that when Lily’s step-father, Mark (Paul Sparks), stops in to talk to Lily during their first tutoring session. She sees instantly that Lily hates him, leading her to casually ask, “Have you ever thought about just killing him?”
And thus begins the dark, twisted, incredibly witty and unpredictable story of these two young women who are both floating through their respective lives, trying to find direction and meaning behind it all. Finley has done a wonderful job here bringing these characters, and his story to life. The dark comedic tones help keep the story somewhat lighter and the characters relatable, when a more serious, straight-forward approach to the material would have been a lot heavier to digest, and very likely not as enjoyable to sit through.
It’s all these elements that Finley juggles so well that makes Thoroughbreds such an engrossing film. The noir, femme fatale inklings sprinkled throughout are beautifully handled, and coincide perfectly with the comedic aspects of the film. This is greatly in part due to the outstanding performances by Cooke and Taylor-Joy. The chemistry between these two characters is make or break for a film like this, and these two actors absolutely knock it out of the park.
Cooke is a joy to watch as she embodies this young woman with no feelings. This is something that’s no small feat, as it’s not a robotic performance – it’s anything but. Cooke brings Amanda to life in a very real way, and while the character doesn’t have the ability to feel anything herself, we as an audience feel for her, and understand the hurdles she faces because of the fantastic job done here by Cooke.
The same can be said for Taylor-Joy, who has the opposite task, in that her character often feels too much. She’s intrigued and even invigorated by the honesty and directness of her childhood friend. Again, the chemistry between the two and the top tier performances that stem from it is what makes this film as sharp as it is.
Also of note is the supporting work done by Sparks and Anton Yelchin. Sparks, as mentioned, plays Mark, Lily’s domineering step-father. He’s the villain of the film, even though the lines between hero and villain aren’t as black and white in a movie like this. He’s at least the villain in Lily’s eyes, and in turn, that’s how he’s portrayed to the audience. His work in making this happen is also incredibly well done, allowing audiences to get on board with the young ladies and their scheming. Yelchin plays a small-time drug dealer who Lily knows from parties she’s attended. This is one of his last roles before his untimely death in 2016, and his great chemistry with the girls and his witty, smooth delivery of dialogue serves as another reminder of his natural talent that will be missed.
If you’re in the mood for a perfectly paced dramatic thriller with a mix neo-noir and dark comedy, then look no further than Thoroughbreds. The performances by all involved, and seeing the debut work of the incredibly talented, up-and-coming Cory Finley make this a movie that shouldn’t be missed.
The film looks great, with Finley’s precise camera angles and the film’s cinematography all coming through beautifully in the Blu-ray transfer. The film’s score is also as important as the snappy dialogue in helping keep the pacing of the film feeling quick, and that also comes through wonderfully, along with the sound mix transferred to home video.
Deleted Scenes – There are a few deleted scenes to be watched here if you like. I’ve never been a fan, as they usually make the cutting room floor for a reason, but check them out if they’re in your wheelhouse of likes.
The Look of Thoroughbreds – This is a short featurette under four minutes in length that talks about the shooting style of the film, the characters and the story. It seems the cast and crew briefly touch on these things. Not too much to be found here, as it’s incredibly short, but if it was this or nothing, it’s always nice to hear the thoughts of the cast and the crew on the project they’re working on.
Character Profiles – Just a few quick profiles on the main characters of the film. This sees the cast and crew once again touch on these individual characters and their roles in the film. Again, better than nothing, but it does leave you wanting something a little richer.
Universal Pictures Presents Thoroughbreds. Written & Directed By: Cory Finley. Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Kaili Vernoff. Running time: 92 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: June 6, 2018.
Tags: anton yelchin, Anya Taylor-Joy, Cory Finley, Olivia Cooke, Paul Sparks, Thoroughbreds