Reviews

Choke

3

Slurp, splutter gag... Waiter! Someone's slipped sugar into my satire

Call it a cuts-two ways thing. Fight Club was so dazzling, it’s a wonder no one has ushered other Chuck Palahniuk books to the screen, until now. Then again, FC was so dazzling, it’s no wonder few have tried to compete by filming the genre-jumping, zeitgeist-satirising prose.

In fairness, Clark Gregg throws a good punch. Sam Rockwell plays Victor Mancini, a guy with a kind of sick desperation in his laugh... “Y’know, some issues.”

A historical re- enactment employee on the sex-addict support-group circuit, Victor divides himself between breaking rehab rules, staging fake choking scams in restaurants and trying to find out from his senile mother (Anjelica Huston) who dad was.

When Dr Paige (Kelly Macdonald) comes into his crazy life, with weird sex and claims that Victor is cloned from Jesus’ foreskin, he suddenly becomes the unwitting recipient of a messiah complex.

Gregg chokes a lot of good, filthy fun from Chuck’s set-up, with some ripe dialogue and decently grubby support from Brad William Henke as Victor’s bishopbashing buddy. What he hasn’t found, though, is the right stylistic correlative for Palahniuk’s riot-of-flavours writing.

Fight Club juggled jarring registers and left us duly punch drunk. First rule, for example: you can’t have romantic sub-threads without a subliminal cock-shot. To channel Palahniuk’s sly streams of cock-eyed consciousness, Choke needed to be choppy and daring.

Instead, Gregg serves something that veers suspiciously close to standard-issue US-indie familial-dysfunction fare, complete with romantic arc. Material this bracingly tangy really doesn’t need a sweetener lurking at the base. Imagine what Tyler would say to that. “Fuck redemption!”, perhaps?

Kevin Harley

Verdict:

Props to Clark Gregg for having the guts to tackle Chuck Palahniuk post-Fincher. But his sterility and romantically curved plot, twisted as it might be, feel respectively reductive and pat next to Palahniuk’s fast, filthy and scabrous satirical stabs.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • jfield

      Nov 26th 2008, 12:27

      3

      did anyone else think the, usually excellent, leading ladies were miscast? i didn't buy huston as either a very old lady or a young mum...

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    • Nealsreviews1

      May 12th 2009, 14:47

      4

      We all know Palahniuk’s Fight Club was amazing, the chore of bringing another of his novels to screen must be daunting. First time filmmaker Clark Gregg, founder of Atlantic Theater Co. & more familiar to the public as ex -husband on “The New Adventures of Old Christine” gives it a go. Although he is no David Fincher Gregg’s adaption is as faithful as possible within its brief running time. Sam Rockwell’s unlikability makes him the quintessential Victor Mancini who is a sex addict that works as a costumed interpreter in a theme park & chokes in restuarants to pay his ill mother’s hospital bills. His mother (Anjelica Huston) a one time extreme radical, but now doesn’t know who he is. Her doctor comes up with a wild plan to save her life that involves making stem cells with Victor, wouldn’t you know, he suddenly can’t rise to the occasion. It captures a lot of the novels bizarre themes such as Rockwell’s early introduction to porn. His painfully misadventures with some errant anal beads. However the novels more edgier tones may have been lightened, but Choke is a twisted tale of redemption a billboard ad for twleve stepping if there ever was one. The acting is decent & Sam Rockwell puts on a convincing performance as a very disturbed Victor Mancini. Neal Damiano Film Critic

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