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Directed by Clark Gregg (Maple Pictures)

Dark comedy Choke (based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel) opens with self-satisfied narration from protagonist Victor (Sam Rockwell). The phrase "Even the worst blow job is better than...sniffing the greatest rose" is sandwiched between equally detached, oh-so-shocking observations. Victor skips out on his Sex Addicts' Anonymous meeting to have bathroom sex and supplements his income by self-inducing public choking fits, so benevolent strangers will save him, develop protective feelings towards him, and subsequently send money. But Choke (the directorial debut of David Mamet player Clark Gregg) surprises. Victor's a self-admitted shit, but he hand-feeds his dementia-ridden mother (Anjelica Huston) and uses his ill-gotten funds to keep her in a fancy private facility, so he's a shit who's capable of kindness (though his most selfless moment does occur following an illicit hand-job in a barn). Victor's capacity for redemption, his sweet, compulsive-masturbator friend (Brad William Henke) and Gregg and Palahniuk's understanding that historical recreation villages are potentially hilarious make a film that could've been a pointless exercise in subversion relatively worthwhile. (Watch it and you won't hate yourself in the morning.) Lindsay McCarney

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Vol 25, No 21
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