There’s something admirable about a film that knows what it is. Too often, tonal inconsistencies and shifts can derail a movie, especially when it comes to genre far. So, it comes as a blood-soaked relief that The Price We Pay never once doubts itself or tries to be what it isn’t. This action/horror/thriller effort is uber-violent and fairly simple, just keen to entertain on a fairly base level. Its periodic escalation belies a smaller production, but in hitting its marks, this flick more than succeeds.
The Price We Pay gets pretty gnarly at times, holding back its gore for some very specific moments. When it happens, though, it certainly doesn’t hold back, visually. Story-wise, there’s a less is more approach, which makes sure plot never gets in the way of intensity. It’s not a subtle approach, but it does work.
When Grace (Gigi Zumbado) arrives at a pawn shop, she expects to just have to negotiate with the sleazy owner over money she owes him. However, when the shop is robbed by a crew led by Alex (Emile Hirsch) and Cody (Stephen Dorff), everything goes sideways. The heist results in the pawn shop workers, owner included, dead, as well as one of the robbers wounded. Taking Grace hostage, by way of needing a ride from her once their getaway driver bails, Alex and Cody think they’re home free. One car breakdown later and that gets put into major question.
Arriving at a nearby ranch, they talk a teenager (Tyler Sanders) into letting them stay for a few hours. He seems a bit rattled, though, and soon, they’ll find out why. This is no ordinary ranch, but a front for something far more sinister. In short order, a bloody fight for survival ensues, with a high cost required to even have a shot to make it out alive.
Stephen Dorff and Emile Hirsch get to lend some star power to a decidedly low budget affair, with the latter also getting to have a blast in the process. Dorff is a solid robber with a heart of gold, while Hirsch is the unhinged criminal who seems to be enjoying it all a bit too much. He goes big, which you don’t get to see from Hirsch too often, making him a highlight here. Gigi Zumbado gets more to do, narratively, but it’s a drier perfromance. Supporting players, aside from Tyler Sanders, include Erika Ervin, Sabina Mach, Vernon Wells, Tanner Zagarino, and more.
Director Ryûhei Kitamura and writer Christopher Jolley have a clear vision for The Price We Pay, sticking to it the whole time. The beginning and end sequences veer more towards horror, but largely this is meant as a bloody thriller, which it does well. Kitamura doesn’t shy away from the gore, either, so when things get violent, boy do they ever get violent. The reveal of what’s actually going on isn’t particularly surprising, and some of the dialogue is lacking, but this is more of a director’s picture than a writer’s, anyway.
A no-frills genre gore-fest, The Price We Pay knows what it is and never tries to be more than that. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who appreciate it (Kitamura’s The Midnight Meat Train is a fair comparison, in terms of dealing with gore), there’s something here. Assuming you’re into it, you’ll likely have a good time.