Writing-directing debuts don’t come much more slick or polished than Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds. A taut blast of a thriller, it announces a serious new filmmaking talent as well as further confirming the brilliance of Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke. The duo give riveting superstar performances as Lilly and Amanda, two teenage girls who are equally psychotic in very different ways.
Friends from their middle school days, Thoroughbreds sees the pair finding a more sinister bond. Amanda, empathetic but completely lacking in feelings of her own, senses Lilly’s hatred of her obscenely rich step-father Mark (Paul Sparks), and her casual suggestion of killing him takes root in Lilly’s explosively angry brain.
Dark trouble is brewing from the start, which hints at a gruesome horse murder and establishes Mark as a colossal tool with hilarious efficiency, before ramping up gradually to a very tense and entertaining third act. Pitch-black humour is scattered throughout Thoroughbreds, though the jokes get broader whenever the tragically departed Anton Yelchin pops up as the drug dealer roped into Lilly and Amanda’s plan.
Thoroughbreds does have a habit of hitting the same beats a little too frequently, leaving it up to its exceptional actors carry it through any hiccups, though the 90 minute runtime means it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Finley packs his script and directing style with confidence, a disconcerting and bravura score rattling the mind and with plenty of great shots sticking in the memory. As Amanda gets sidelined in her own plan by Lilly, Cooke starts drifting to the edge of frames, looking like a fashionably bored ghost, and Lyle Vincent’s camerawork deserves plenty of plaudits for making even the brightest summer day look freezing cold.
There might not be a huge amount going on beneath the surface of Thoroughbreds, but it’s hugely compelling and shows serious star power on both sides of the camera.
CAST: Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Paul Sparks, Anton Yelchin
DIRECTOR: Cory Finley
WRITER: Cory Finley
SYNOPSIS: Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems – no matter what the cost.