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The Price We Pay: Film Review

The Price We Pay is a self-aware, low-brow thriller that knows its audience and how to keep them entertained. 

The Price We Pay, the newest feature from director Ryūhei Kitamura, reads like a group of teenage boys got together after watching Barbarian, Halloween, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, and Parasite and decided to make some unholy mashup between the four. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a criticism of the film. In fact, The Price We Pay is a film that’s acutely aware of its low-brow trappings and embraces them. This makes for a roller coaster of a movie that acknowledges the audience’s expectations and satisfies them accordingly: if you know what you’re getting into, then it is sure to be a great time. 

The film opens with a prologue that’s seemingly unrelated to the scenes that come afterwards. Somewhere in the American southwest, Carly (Sabrina Mach), a prostitute, is abandoned by her client at a roadside truck stop in the middle of nowhere after a business transaction goes sour. Kitamura (working off a script from Christopher Jolley) doesn’t try to be subtle with the purpose of the scene, framing everything in extreme wide shots that showcase the extreme isolation of the scene while cluing us into a malevolent force just outside the frame. A brief game of cat-and-mouse ensues, with the scene drenched in soft neon colors accentuated by plenty of jarring jump cuts that make the audience feel just as off-balance as the characters. It’s not a subtle approach, but it is effective, and by the time Carly is abducted by the mysterious figure, we have a pretty good idea of the tone for the rest of the movie. 

However, Carly is not the protagonist of The Price We Pay, as we soon find out in the next scene. Somewhere in the same region as the opening scene we find Grace (Gigi Zumbado), a young woman struggling to pay her rent. At her landlord’s pawn shop, she bears witness to a robbery by three masked assailants that leaves the employees and the landlord dead and her as a hostage/driver when the fourth man ditches the scene early. What follows is an efficiently written sequence where the three men argue about what to do next as Grace tries to keep herself alive. Alex (Emile Hirsch) wants to save the trouble and kill her, while Cody (Stephen Dorff) argues caution.  Alex’s brother Shane (Tanner Zagarino) was gravely injured in the robbery and his declining health forces the group to take refuge at a remote ranch house.  

loud and clear reviews The Price We Pay 2022 film movie review lionsgate
The Price We Pay (Lionsgate)

That’s pretty much all that can be said about The Price We Pay without delving into heavy spoilers that would surely ruin the experience. Like a few of the influences mentioned in the first paragraph, the film relies heavily on a midpoint twist that takes the movie from something resembling Hell or High Water to a much more sinister place that showcases Kitamura’s talents for gore, as well as the weaknesses in the writing. Emile Hirsch is easily the standout performance overall, channeling the infinitely watchable insanity of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in Ambulance and combining it with an almost campy commitment to getting the most out of every single line delivery. When the film begins to lose steam around the fifty-minute mark, it’s his frantic energy that keeps the film moving.  

Overall, even though The Price We Pay isn’t a masterpiece of horror cinema, it does understand the expectations of those watching it. Kitamura realizes that the main appeal here is in the film’s fast pace, growing sense of dread, and horror elements in the back half, and in that respect, he succeeds handily. The film is fun, brutal, and best experienced with a large bowl of popcorn and a group of friends who have no idea what the movie is about.  

Get it on Apple TV

The Price We Pay is now available to watch on VOD in the US and select countries. The film will be released on digital in the UK on 16 October 2023.

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