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Originally published Friday, September 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Choke": Nope — it wasn't that good for me

"Choke," the latest adaptation from "Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk, should be a much hotter ride than it is.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review 2 stars

"Choke," with Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald. Written and directed by Clark Gregg, from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. 92 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language. Several theaters.

Apologies to David Duchovny, but of all known maladies, sex addiction may be the most inherently funny. In fact, I plan to nurture such an addiction. It's a disease, and I want a telethon.

But "Choke," the latest adaptation from "Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk, should be a much hotter ride than it is. It's worth a go for sheer outrageousness and Sam Rockwell's performance. But whether you're watching a movie or having sex, it's a bad sign if you find yourself checking your watch.

With a deft mix of charisma and loserism, Rockwell plays Victor Mancini, a sex addict who hooks up in the restroom during support-group meetings. He's nearly incapable of looking at a woman without picturing her naked — any woman, making "Gag" a more apt title. He works at a colonial theme park where anachronisms are sternly punished, and runs a scam in his spare time: choking on food at restaurants and somehow getting his Heimlich-administering saviors to send him sympathy checks afterward. And this is to support his mom (Anjelica Huston) in a private hospital. She doesn't recognize Victor but still remembers information about his unknown father that he's desperate to learn.

There's a lot going on in "Choke," and it may be more than first-time director Clark Gregg can handle. An actor on "The New Adventures of Old Christine," he's also Victor's uptight colonial nemesis. With all the potential filthy hilarity of the material, Gregg's direction and pacing are inexplicably inert in a way that comes off as failed deadpan — although one scene with Victor and a hyper-controlling woman who gets off enacting rape fantasies hits the mark expertly.

Also problematic: a lovely young doctor played by Kelly Macdonald, who won an Emmy for "The Girl in the Café" but is painful to watch in all but a couple of scenes. And even in the film's wacky, pervert universe, her plan to help cure Victor's mom — which involves mounting him in the hospital chapel — threw me right off.

In short, I would have enjoyed the film more if I weren't thinking with my head.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259


Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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