-By David Noh

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Sam Rockwell, with his eternally raffish, furtive quality, is perfectly cast as Victor Mancini, the unregenerate sex addict in Clark Gregg‘s Choke. Victor works as a “historical interpreter” (read tour guide) at a Colonial American theme park and forever fantasizes about boinking every woman he encounters. His actual success rate is pretty high, but, obviously realizing his problem, he goes to group therapy with his similarly inclined, ever-masturbatory pal, Denny (Brad William Henke). Victor must also contend with a delusional mother, Ida (Anjelica Huston), who fits every description of “unfit” and who never recognizes him when he visits her in her private care facility, in his inexhaustible attempt to discover the identity of his father. He does meet a girl there, Paige (Kelly Macdonald), however, who just may be his salvation.

Gregg’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel starts out strong and very funny, with the Sexaholics Anonymous meetings and some topless-bar sequences, filled with comic possibilities, and the theme-park scenes, which are enlivened by the performances of Gregg himself as a manager, forever talking in annoying Colonial American “thou-speak,” and the always gamely slutty Bijou Phillips. There’s enough fresh material and unpredictable incident here to keep a viewer happy, but then the story takes a too-incredible turn with Victor believing that he just may be the son of Christ. Things become flailingly frenzied and plain gross (involving, for instance, a missing anal bead), the humor evaporates amid the desperation, and the film becomes an overextended letdown. And for all its obsession with sex, Choke is anything but truly sexy, as every physical act is presented with a sweaty, animalistically rutting “eeeew” factor.

Henke gives a winning performance as the Teddy-bearish Denny, and Macdonald retains her effectively uncanny sweetness, reminiscent of the young Julie Hagerty, in a real red herring of a role. Huston seems to be enjoying herself, although Gregg indulges in one too many cruel jokes at seniors’ expense and I definitely could have done without that final shot of her face smeared with chocolate pudding.

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