Appetite for destruction

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Like its main character, the movie Choke seems to possess an insatiable appetite. Adapted from the Chuck Palahniuk novel by actor, writer and first-time director Clark Gregg (the persistent S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Iron Man), Choke spends its 90 or so minutes wallowing in sex, dirty talk, self-loathing and an assortment of plot points, some of which don't add up to much. But it's intoxicating despite - or maybe because of - its hard angles and rough patches.

Sam Rockwell finds another perfectly suited role in Victor Mancini, an intelligent underachiever working at a colonial re-enactment site to pay for his always unstable, now dementia-riddled mother (Anjelica Huston) to stay in a good care facility. Victor's also a sex addict, as illustrated very early on in the bathroom outside his Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting.

But it's not just sex, it's other things that "look like love, if you squint," like choking in restaurants so strangers will save him. Victor's destructive habits are finally challenged by his mother's new doctor (Kelly Macdonald), who he can't see as just a sex object, try as he might.

As the story progresses, a silly subplot about Victor's real father arises and provides some so-so humor. More refreshing is the trajectory of the central characters. No one turns out to be quite as they appear at first, and the story becomes as much about Macdonald's character as Rockwell's. Her winning performance plays nicely off yet another fine turn for the leading man as a lovable reprobate.