Film Review: CHOKESLAM (Canada 2017)

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chokeslamDirector: Robert Cuffley
Writers: Robert Cuffley, Jason Long
Stars: Chris Marquette, Amanda Crew, Michael Eklund

Review by Gilbert Seah

With the film’s tagline “Love is hard to pin down”, it is not hard to guess that CHOKESLAM is a romantic comedy about wrestling.

CHOKESLAM is a story about bruising ones knuckles on the barriers of love and the perils of dating a wrestler with a bad temper. The wrestler in question is Sheena DeWilde (Amanda Crew, SILICON VALLEY). But the film’s protagonist is a nerdy 28-year old Corey Swanson (Chris Marquette JOAN OF ARCADIA), a mild-mannered deli clerk who slices cold cuts for a living, whose first love is Sheena. Sheena has just flown into town for their high school reunion. Corey learns of the reunion from an unfunny, clumsily staged hold-up by a classmate he recognizes. He attends, convinced that seeing Sheena one more time will finally give him closure on that better-forgotten chapter of his life.

The script does nothing to make Corey, the romantic underdog likeable. The only time the audience gets a surprise is when he sneaks an unexpected kiss to Sheena. Otherwise, he could be a dirty old guy stalking a pretty innocent lady. Corey is annoying to no end.
What makes a good comedy is timing, a good script with potential hilarious set-ups. The script is only mildly funny and all the comedy seems to fall flat mainly to poor timing Cuffley attempts dead-pan but often switches to sit-com style comedy as a last resort. One example can be seen in the hospital segment where Corey looks blankly at the ceiling with his neck brace just before mother comes in and says silly unfunny remarks like how her son never gets sick.

If one expects to see some professional wrestling, be prepared to be disappointed. There is one scene where two wrestlers go at it while Corey and Sheena look on from the side. But the action is intercut with the conversation (and an uninteresting one at that) so no one really bothers with either. Other wrestling scenes are mainly ho-hum. Three-time WWF champion Mick Foley has a supporting role in the film, playing Patrick – so WWF fans might be thrilled.

CHOKESLAM is an indie Canadian film and I would normally give a Canadian film a chance, especially it being an indie as well. But it is hard to root for a Canadian film that pretends to be American (as seen in the American money dished out from the cash register in the robbery scene). And also harder to root if the film is this bad and uninteresting. So, does Corey get the girl in the end? Well, that is what the film is all about!

CHOKESLAM is part of the Canadian Indie Film Series. The film has managed to snag preview screenings across Canada March 15th while opening widely across Canada on April the 7th. As the director is Canadian from Calgary, the film was chosen as the Closing Film of the Calgary International Film Festival.

The only ones ending chokeslammed are the audience. A good comedy should not be that difficult to pin down!



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