(With Choke arriving in theaters this weekend, we're re-running our review of the film from the Sundance Film Festival)
By: Erik Davis
Fans of author Chuck Palahniuk (and trust me, there's a lot of them) have been waiting a long time to witness another one of his fantastic books show up on the big screen. The first Palahniuk adaptation, of course, was Fight Club, which was handled flawlessly by director David Fincher and featured sensational performances from both Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Choke is an entirely different book, one that relies a little more on comedy, and first-time director Clark Gregg (who also penned the script) decided to turn this adaptation into a straight-up laugher that really works ... some of the time. While I'm a huge fan of Palahniuk, his books and especially Choke, there's only one reason why I would recommend you check out this film, and one reason only: Sam Rockwell.
Rockwell plays Victor Mancini, a scheming sex addict who, along with his dopey best friend Denny (Brad William Henke), works at a historical re-creation theme park of sorts, where folks dress up in 1800's period garb and give tours to anyone who'd like to see what it was like to live back then. When Victor and Denny aren't getting in trouble for doing something very un-1800's (like reading a newspaper, chewing gum), Victor heads out to restaurants to physically make himself choke on food in an attempt to get a wealthy patron to save his life. It is his goal to bond with this person, to share in the ecstasy of their heroic efforts, and then take advantage of their kindness -- that mutual experience -- in the hope they'll send him money for living such a tough life. Victor then uses that money to help pay for his unstable mother's (Anjelica Huston) long-term stay at a high-priced mental hospital.