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  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

Director: Clark Gregg
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Brad William Henke, Kelly Macdonald, Clark Gregg
RunTime: 1 hr 32 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: R21 (Mature Content)
Official Website: www.foxsearchlight.com/choke/

Opening Day: 30 October 2008


Actor-turned-director Clark Gregg shows he is as adept behind the camera as he is in front of it with CHOKE, a wickedly colorful dark comedy about mothers and sons, sexual compulsion, and the sordid underbelly of Colonial theme parks. Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex-addicted med-school dropout, who keeps his increasingly deranged mother, Ida (Anjelica Huston), in an expensive private medical hospital by working days as a historical reenactor at a Colonial Williamsburg theme park. At night Victor runs a scam by deliberately choking in upscale restaurants to form parasitic relationships with the wealthy patrons who “save” him. When, in a rare lucid movement, Ida reveals that she has withheld the shocking truth of his father’s identity, Victor enlists the aid of his best friend, Denny (Brad William Henke) and his mother’s beautiful attending physician, Dr. Paige Marshall (Kelly Macdonald), to solve the mystery before the truth of his possibly divine parentage is lost forever.

Movie Review:

We all got Chuck Palahniuk to thank for cooking up the story for Fight Club, which David Fincher helmed to perfection with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt turning up one of their most memorable performances on film in lead roles. It took another 9 years since for another of Palahniuk's novel to make it to the silver screen, and this time, rookie director Clark Gregg managed to weave a compelling story bringing to life Palahniuk's quirky characters, but don't be expecting something from Fincher's mold.

Like Fight Club's Narrator, Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) checks himself into rehabilitation, but while The Narrator flits from clinic to clinic to try and address his insomnia, Victor has a real sex addiction problem to take care of. He's seeking that constant orgasmic high like a drug to quench that insatiable sexual appetite, and this high libido of his naturally contributes to the rating for the movie.

But that aside, Victor as a character is very much a sympathetic one. We discover he has two jobs - the day one as a theme park guide, and after work, he moonlights as a scam artist to fleece cash from Good Samaritans through his choking routine. All this just because of his desire to provide and thus pay for the best medical care for his deranged mom Ida, played by Anjelica Huston. At its core, this is a tale of sincere, unwavering filial piety, and an exploration of a mother-son relationship which we follow in flashbacks when Victor was a child (in a role played by Jonah Bobo).

As with Palahniuk's story, do come to expect the usual twists and turns, where surprising revelations are made which turns the whole story on its head, coupled with some hilarious red herrings thrown in for good measure. I thought that while it might be religiously offensive to some - think The Da Vinci Code styled potential controversy, but more vulgar - but I guess the ridiculousness of the premise managed to have it passed off as (bad) humour. Speaking of which there are some genuinely dark comical moments, and some which could be turned to instant classics (one of THE moments was during one of Victor's choking stint), but on the whole you've got to sit through some pretty dramatic moments which slows the pace down to a crawl.

Clearly, some scenes didn't really gel into the scheme of things, and stood out like a sore thumb, knowing that Clark Gregg probably had to leave such scenes inside just to allow some jokes to surface, or break the monotony of its dramatic moments in quite a haphazard manner, such as the exotic dance club scene which could effectively be left out. And these scenes come through in quite episodic fashion, without which, Victor's good friend Denny (Brad William Henke), another sex addict, would be reduced to nothing more than a caricature. Other subplots involve a petty work colleague, and the old women taking a liking to Victor, but again, these were set out to achieve comic effect.

The saviour of the movie then lies with Sam Rockwell, and his on-screen chemistry with Anjelica Huston. In my opinion, Sam Rockwell is perhaps one of the most underrated of contemporary actors out there, and so far, I have nothing but enjoyed the roles he played in movies seen, such as Matchstick Men and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He brings about a degree of sensitivity to his role, and you can sense his desperation and frustration each time he succumbs to temptation, knowingly resigning to fate but yet wanting to defy the stars when it comes to the welfare of his mom.

Those expecting the satirical intelligence of a Fight Club equivalent would be mildly disappointed. While it is based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel, it does have its moments, but nothing too memorable that will stick once the end credits start to roll.

Movie Rating:

(Flashes of brilliance makes Choke easy to swallow, but little to remember by once ingested)

Review by Stefan Shih


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. The King (2005)

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