Choking Man

Almost Nihilistic in its complete lack of point.

Released in 2006, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 17 Dec 2008 by Scott Morris
Choking Man image

Released, I assume, to capture the eye of those really looking for Choke, Choking Man was doing the festival circuits a few years back where it was featured in the 'comedy accent' categories. Rick, played by Mandy Patinkin and voiced by Stavros from the Harry Enfield sketches, runs the Olympic Diner, hiring the equally daffily accented Amy (Eugenia Yuan) as a waitress despite sounding like she's about to declare that she'd love you long time. Eschewing the parade of disastrous accents in the back room is dishwasher Jorge (Octavio Gomez), who wisely chooses to avoid saying a damn word, if at all possible.

It turns out that he's not doing this out of a general sense of disgust, but rather that he's so pathologically shy and troubled by normal human contact that you have to wonder what on earth prompted him to move from Ecuador to the populous melting pot of Noo Yawk. While he's rather taken by Amy, who shows him some basic politeness and sticks up for him when bothered by fellow backroom staffer and asshole Jerry (Aaron Paul), Jorge's social inability to, well, function as a human gets in the way of any potential relationship.

Not that Jorge's entirely alone in this life, living as he does with an imaginary room-mate. Starting off as merely dull, things almost threaten to become interesting when relationships sour and his imaginary friend starts advising Jorge that the best way to get people to notice him would be to kill them, but it pussies out on that and soon returns to being tedious, pointless and ultimately as unnoticeable as Jorge himself.

Choking Man image

Had, perhaps, writer and director Steve Barron, known largely for his music promo work, taken things consistently down the darker path that Jorge threatened to go down this could have held some interest. It certainly uses that threat to try and build some tension, although this is immediately undermined by its continual and entirely inexplicable lapses into some sort of primary school level animated sequences, other showing bunnies gambolling happily through a field. Bunny rabbits are rarely useful tools to build suspense and foreboding. Unless it's that one from Donnie Darko, I suppose.

It's quite obvious what Choking Man turned out to be. It's a pointless waste of everyone's time. What's less clear is what it was supposed to be about in the first place. It's marketed, for given values of marketed, as being about the experiences of immigrants into the lower paid levels of New York society, although it would only really be relevant to the experiences of cripplingly shy, socially handicapped immigrants. I suppose it's a character piece then, but with dull characters that we learn nothing interesting about.

The question I keep coming back to is "Who on earth thought this would be an interesting subject for a film?" I have, I concede, seen far worse this year, although probably not outside of the EIFF which contained a few similarly dull and pointless wastes of my time, but this is right at the bottom of this year's pecking order. I should not have watched this film and I regret the error.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

Steve Barron
Cast list:
Octavio Gomez (Jorge)
Eugenia Yuan (Amy)
Aaron Paul (Jerry)
Mandy Patinkin (Rick)
Kate Buddeke (Terri)
Paolo Andino (Choking Man)