'Choke': Addicted To Love, By Kurt Loder

Sam Rockwell scores again in a nicely nasty indie flick.

Victor Mancini () isn't getting a lot out of his sex-addict therapy group — he keeps sneaking off to the loo to boff an equally unreformed and unmistakably eager fellow addict. We understand. At his job in a faux "colonial village," where he must parade among the tourists wearing a pigtailed peruke and ye olde colonial garments (" 'Groundhog Day' in hell," he calls it), Victor can't get any action at all from the zingy village "milk maid" ().

Meanwhile, Victor's mother (), a retired grifter who dragged him all around the country pursuing various cons when he was a boy, is now installed in a local mental bin and no longer recognizes her son, who must pretend to be other people she does recall just to get her attention. There's also a pretty doctor (Kelly Macdonald) at this sanitarium, though, and naturally Victor comes on to her. Her name is Paige, and she's surprisingly agreeable to Victor's offer of carnal interaction — but only in the name of science: She wants his stem cells ("I simply need your seed") to brew up an experimental potion to restore his mother's fading brain. Strange. But hey, she's hot.

"Choke" is based on a book by Chuck Palahniuk ("Fight Club"), that laureate of low urges and heightened dialogue. It's a digital-video indie with a skuzzy, festering charm that almost papers over the chinks in its shambolic plot. Victor is a complete sleaze, and Sam Rockwell doesn't sweeten him much, which makes the character all the more hilarious. Rockwell is one of the best under-acclaimed actors in movies right now, and he's fascinating to watch as he attempts to deal with such rude perplexities as the accidental internalization of a sex-play bead, an imperious woman who ropes him into donning a black head stocking to take part in one of her elaborate rape scenarios (true nasty fun), or the invitingly naked lady he encounters in an airplane toilet who's part of an international mile-high club.

There's no moral lesson being peddled here, which is kind of refreshing, and after a while we find ourselves being seduced into Victor's grubby worldview. Even when he salutes "meaningless sex with strangers" as "perfect, beautiful nothing," we think, "Well, maybe ... "

Don't miss Kurt Loder's reviews of "Eagle Eye", "Towelhead" and "The Midnight Meat Train," also new in theaters this week.

Check out everything we've got on "Choke."

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