Reviewed by Neil Davey
Stars Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Brad William Henke,
Kelly McDonald, Joel Grey, Gillian Jacobs, Bijou Philips,
Paz De La Huerta, Viola Harris
Written by Clark Gregg, from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Certification UK 18 | US R
Runtime 89 minutes
Directed by Clark Gregg
Call me a cynic but is Fight Club really as good as so many people say it is? Yes, I’ll accept it’s powerful, very well directed and raises some interesting questions about what it means to be a man in this day and age. But a five star classic? A benchmark for quality in modern films? Er… no. Frankly.And so, inevitably — albeit surprisingly slowly — more of Chuck Palahniuk’s unusual fiction reaches the screen in the form of Choke, a slightly messy but very funny story of Victor Mancini (Rockwell in fine form), a man with, ahem, certain issues.
A recovering (and failing) sex addict, Victor is at an interesting point in his life. He has no idea who his father is and his hospital-bound mother Ida (Huston, classy as ever) either isn’t telling or is so senile she can’t remember. In order to keep the hospital bills paid, Victor has two sources of income. There’s the ‘legit’ role, working in a colonial theme park alongside his friend Denny (Henke). Then there’s the ongoing scam of the title. Victor pretends to choke while eating in expensive restaurants. A fellow diner — chosen on the basis of apparent wealth, quality of dress, etc — ‘saves’ his life and, thanks to Victor’s psychological expertise, then feels responsible for Victor’s life and well being and supports him financially.
Add in Ida’s sexy attendee, Dr Paige (McDonald), odd sex and the theory that Victor was cloned from Jesus’ foreskin and we’re well and truly into Palahniuk territory. Which, of course, is territory that generally works better on the page than the screen. Still, director Clark Gregg has a damn good go and, while the results don’t necessarily form a coherent whole, it’s at least never dull. Much like Fight Club, in fact.