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Review: Choke (2020)

Choke is the new film by writer director Gregory Hatanaka. The story blurs between the lines between of reality and fantastical. In follows intertwining relationship between a young girl, a cop and a serial killer. Throw in a cult that likes to choke themselves and each other to unconscious for both pleasure and enlightenment and you end up, well confused.

You see my brief synopsis might not 100% accurate, having watched the film twice I’m still not entirely sure what it’s about. Even with the inner monologue narration the plot doesn’t fully ever get explained. This does leave you feeling a little unsatisfied by the end.

The dialogue also never finds one style. One minute you have mature Tarationo esque back and forth between characters, which will almost instantly jump to the earnest nothing is as important than what is happen to us now speeches of a coming of age teen drama. It’s almost like Pulp Fiction got mixed up with the script for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This made me feel a little uneasy at times, as my brain almost had to switch gear to match the type of movie I was now watching.

The issue with the scripts changing styles makes the three leads performances even more impressive. Especially the relative newcomer Sarah Brine, whose performance is one so effortless you’d swear she’d been doing this for years. There is a possible future star in the making in this talented young performer.

Away from the three main leads the performances start to get more TV drama than anything else. Mixed with the story these performances made me feel I was watching an episode of The Blacklist at certain points.

One thing that really took the film to the next level was the cinematography. The cut between the bright panoramic cityscapes to the claustrophobic dim lit interiors was stunning. In fact the use of light throughout was superb. There were points that the way a room was lit almost made it another character. The true horror of the murders and the seediness of the sex scenes is only complimented by how they were lit.  I have seen big budget blockbusters that have not even come close to Gregory Hatanaka’s work in this film.

So Choke is an enjoyable if somewhat unfulfilling experience. The barebones of something great is there, but the final product just does not deliver as well as it could.

Marks out of 10: 6.5

You can watch Choke now on Amazon Prime.

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