Based on the novel by American writer Chuck Palahniuk, 'Choke' lacks of the flair and understanding of the source material that made 'Fight Club' such an exhilaratingly malevolent critique of society and human nature.
Nobody would ask or expect first time director Clark Gregg - a fine actor - to make 'Fight Club II' but when taking on this type of story it is fair to say that a deeper engagement with the source material is needed then we get here.
Love him or hate him, Palahniuk is a singular writer with a unique vision; telling this story as a bland lightly comedic farce certainly doesn't work.
The central character is Victor (Rockwell), a sex addict and con-man whose life is taken up with scamming enough money to keep his mother Ida (Huston) in an expensive psychiatric facility by faking choking incidents in restaurants and having meaningless sex with strangers. The scams hinge on Victor making those who ‘rescue’ Victor feel responsible for him and then exploiting through begging letters.
The sex we see through frequent graphic flashbacks.
Otherwise, he spends his time whiling away the days working at a colonial America themed historical park with best buddy (and self-love addict) Denny (Henke).
He also visits the mental hospital only to find that, Ida, an unconvincing Anjelica Huston, can’t recognise him. Even worse, she frequently mistakes him for long dead lawyers and spends much of her time telling anyone who’ll listen, including Victor, about how her no good son won’t visit. There seems to be some hope when a doctor at the hospital (McDonald) proposes an unorthodox cure – that involves Victor having sex with her.
Perfect? Well, Victor soon discovers that for some reason or other he can't manage it, and develops a Jesus complex instead.
Cue flashbacks and a tiresome series of scenes in which Victor tries to figure out who his real father is, not helped by serial liar Ida. Meanwhile, everyone else seems to be finding redemption - with Denny finding domestic bliss with a stripper.
Sounds weird? Well, it’s typical Palahniuk material – asphyxiation, sex, delusion on a massive scale – and perhaps the oddest thing of all is how un-strange it all seems in this treatment, which is vaguely reminiscent of a sexed up ‘My Name Is Earl’.
Will Victor discover happiness? Snore.
Overall, there's very little story telling skill, very little change in texture from scene to scene and the direction and performances - with some talented actors involved - are uniformly mediocre.
This could possibly have been done better but, by the end, it has well and truly floundered.