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?
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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.