Clark Gregg is a brave man for taking on this tricky adaptation of a Chuck Palahniuk book for his

directorial debut, as it guarantees comparisons with the other Palahniuk adaptation to have reached our screens

so far, Fight Club. Such comparisons are a mite unfair, if unavoidable.
The novel itself touches on similar themes to

Palahniuk’s incendiary debut, once again charting a male protagonist’s disconnection from the modern

world – literally so in the case of Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), who spends his days as an ‘historical

interpreter’ at a working medieval village. To pay for his mother’s expensive psychiatric care, Victor has

come up with a scam whereby he pretends to choke in restaurants, to be saved by an unsuspecting rube who

out of pity will put it upon themselves to support Victor, contributing cheques toward phantom dental surgery.

It’s when visiting his mother in hospital, whilst

trying to ascertain who his real father is, that Victor meets his mother’s doctor Paige Marshall (Macdonald),

who hits him with a bizarre revelation about who he might really be.
Unflinching from the graphic sexuality of the

novel – Victor cruises sex addiction groups and fetish websites, and suffers an unfortunate mishap with some

anal beads – Clark Gregg is to be commended for taking on the challenge of bringing Choke to the screen,

and braving those inevitable comparisons. His inexperience as a director shows at points – he’s guilty

of some sloppiness a perfectionist like David Fincher would never allow for. There are also some moments – in particular the flashbacks – which are clumsily

handled but Clark has drawn excellent performances from his perfectly-cast ensemble – Sam Rockwell once

again proves he has the charisma to make even the sleaziest character charming – and, whilst dialling

down Victor’s self-loathing and playing the story more as a straight comedy, the key themes and scenes from

the book are largely intact. It may not go down as a modern classic, but as Fight Club’s oversexed younger brother, it certainly holds its own.

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