Thoroughbreds (4 stars)

Thoroughbreds

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy beguile in Cory Finley's suspenseful and smartly scripted teen thriller

From its opening scene there is a familiarity to this assured American indie that lulls you into a false sense of security. The cinematic debut of playwright Cory Finley is a black comedy with traces of teen staples, such as Cruel Intentions, Heathers and Heavenly Creatures. And yet its story of two blue-blooded teenage girls out for revenge represents a surprisingly fresh take on the subject matter, in a film that is elegantly handled and extremely suspenseful.

A dangerous liaison is rekindled when Amanda (Olivia Cooke) is asked to tutor former friend Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy). Their initial encounters play out as sparring matches combining acerbic one-liners and sinister pea consumption, all designed to set you on edge thanks to the magnificently unpredictable performances and Erik Friedlander's sharp score that brings to mind rattle snakes poised to attack. Amanda has been the talk of the wealthy Connecticut suburbs since she performed a gory euthanasia on her beloved horse, and the highly manipulative Lily is fascinated by her twisted logic and lack of feeling.

Paul Sparks is truly menacing as stepfather to Lily. Sick of his overbearing presence, she hatches a plan to kill him off with her conspirator Amanda. They drag dishwasher and small-time drug dealer Tim (the late Anton Yelchin) into their wicked scheme, and the audience is reminded of what a treasure was lost in Yelchin, who delivers fantastically frantic comedy through a fine physical performance, alongside some high-pitched agitation.

The back and forth between Amanda and Lily is superbly scripted by Finley, recalling the clever penmanship of Ira Levin's Deathtrap, while he directs with real precision. And Cooke and Taylor-Joy remain endlessly watchable as they serve up the deliciously devious dialogue.

General release from Fri 6 Apr.

Thoroughbreds

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 32min
  • Directed by: Cory Finley
  • Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin

Two blue-blooded teenage girls, Amanda (Cooke) and Lily (Taylor-Joy), conspire to murder Lily’s terrible stepfather (Sparks). A surprisingly fresh indie black comedy with superb back-and-forth dialogue; Cooke and Taylor-Joy are endlessly watchable, and the late Yelchin delivers fantastic, frantic comedy as a hapless drug…

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