Choke Clark Gregg

Choke Clark Gregg
With bated breath, many of author Chuck Palahniuk’s faithful awaited another cinematic adaptation of his highly visceral and contentious novels, after Fight Club was sucker punched out of a successful theatrical run by bafflingly frail criticism.

Choke is perhaps the safest and possibly wisest, but certainly not the boldest, choice a studio could have made to test the waters for the viewing public’s taste for more of Palahniuk’s interior anarchism on screen. This is not the genius effort of a forceful auteur that was David Fincher’s Fight Club. But Palahniuk’s Choke, the story, isn’t the searing introduction of a viciously satirical nihilistic voice that Fight Club, the story, was either.

First time director and long-time character actor Clark Gregg (you’ll definitely recognize him in his small but ripe role) handles the material carefully, playing the outlandish scenarios fairly straight, saving the spotlight for Palahniuk’s words and the very able talents of his gifted cast.

Sam Rockwell stars as Vincent Mancini, a med-school dropout and sex addict who works in a colonial park and in his off time, cons money and emotional bonds out of affluent "good Samaritans” by fake choking into their laps at fancy restaurants and having them "save” him. He’s a messed up guy but the anarchistic consumer assault field trips and frequent kidnappings from his foster families by his paranoid, delusional mother are a pretty good excuse.

All of Vincent’s issues are primarily maternal, even where the ludicrous suggestion of his father’s identity is concerned. Vincent uses his choke money to supplement the expenses of his mother’s nursing facility in order to keep her alive long enough to find out the truth about his father while distracting himself by banging a hooker he’s sponsoring and trying to coax hand jobs out of the milk maid at work. A legitimate attraction to his mother’s new doctor (the adorable Kelly Macdonald) throws his life and destructive habits into disarray and the tale gets progressively weirder from there.

This is arguably Palahniuk’s lightest and weakest story but it translates well in Gregg’s innocuous hands and even a lesser tale of Chuck’s is rife with darkly enjoyable and deplorable humour, which is delivered with sleazy but sympathetic gusto by the selfless performances of a great ensemble cast.

This is a must see for fans of depraved and irreverent comedy. (Maple)