Choke possesses some of Fight Club’s black humour, but contains none of its visceral power or dramatic potency, writes Paul Fennessy.
Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a sex addict who has friends who are compulsive masturbators and who surrounds himself with freaks, both in the mental hospital in which he routinely visits his mother (Ida, played with typical austerity by Anjelica Huston) and the meetings he attends in an attempt to assuage his overly impulsive tendencies. While Ida’s health and mental state are quickly dissipating, the identity of his real father is suddenly thrown into doubt.
For those who have seen or read Fight Club or any of Chuck Paliuhnik’s other infamous works, this will be familiar territory. The writer delights in showcasing the more lurid sides of modern living. In one scene for example, a mock rape is played for laughs.
“For those who have seen or read Fight Club or any of Chuck Paliuhnik’s other infamous works, this will be familiar territory”
However, despite including controversial moments, Choke’s essential message is far more conventional. While proving pleasantly diverting and containing the occasional laugh out loud moment, the film lacks the cultural incisiveness and visual distinctiveness of its more celebrated predecessor.
One of the film’s primary problem’s is its lack of plausibility. In Fight Club, you really believe Ed Norton is a bored, disillusioned office worker, whereas in this instance, Sam Rockwell is far too cool to be credible as a desperate, crazy sex addict craving for true companionship.
The film aspires to be a look at the dark underbelly of contemporary subculture, but has that horrible American sheen whereby everybody has to learn a lesson and we discover that, gee whiz, maybe people aren’t so bad after all. What this film needs is a director like Mike Leigh who would inject some proper grit into proceedings.
Choke, while being perfectly watchable, never truly reaches the kind of classic status which it is so patently aiming for.