This is my fifth “coming home” film in the last six months (See Mr. Roosevelt and 5 Doctors). It’s almost not fair for me to review Robert Cuffley’s Chokeslam because be compared to the other similar films. The plan is to be objective, but that means this little film has to work hard to stand out from the crowd. What it has going for it is a professional wrestling backstory and a nice appearance from WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley.

Corey Swanson (Chris Marquette) is a deli clerk living with his mother in a small rural mid-western town. He’s a loser, but that wasn’t always the case. In high school, he had a healthy self-image and confidence that quickly evaporated when he proposed to his sweetheart Sheena DeWilde (Amanda Crew) during a school assembly. Corey’s life spiraled downward both mercilessly and publically as Sheena rebuffed the proposal.

After graduation, Sheena moved to Los Angeles to be a professional wrestler as Corey fought through his depression in becoming said deli clerk. The film opens with Corey being robbed in the deli at gunpoint by former classmate Luke Petrie (Michael Eklund). Luke is an unlikely criminal, who quickly befriends Corey and convinces him to attend his high school reunion, knowing Sheena will make an appearance.

“…Sheena moved to Los Angeles to be a professional wrestler as Corey…became a deli clerk.”

Corey goes to the reunion primarily to seek closure for his failed high school courtship with Sheena. Closure turns out to be a punch in the face and a trip to the hospital when Sheena’s homecoming is met with disdain from her former classmates. Although Sheena found success as a wrestler, her temper got her suspended from wrestling. Worse, the incident went viral and used to embarrass her at the reunion.

As Corey attempts to find closure with Sheena, you guessed it; he still has feelings for her. And as you can guess, she’s currently in a relationship with her manager Tab Hennessy (Niall Matter). All this leads to Corey wanting to organize Sheena’s retirement match at the local area run by Patrick (Mick Foley). Will the time Cory and Sheena spend together organizing the event bring them together? Do I really need to answer this question?

This is a story of the separate paths of Corey and Sheena. Sheena was destined to become a professional wrestler, but the loneliness of the road drove her to the breaking point. Corey, on the other hand, remained at home reeling from his breakup with Sheena and being misunderstood by his friends and family.

“…the relationship between Corey and Sheena and leaves the wrestling as a backdrop.”

How far does Chokeslam stand out from the crowded field of “coming home” stories? Not far and not far enough for a recommendation. Chokeslam has good performances from its leads Marquette and Crew. Marquette plays a good sad sack, that means he’s forced to play it low energy. The film lacks the charisma necessary to get behind the leads. As far as a love story goes, it’s formulaic. Corey’s buddy Luke serves as comic relief and is used for a somewhat important plot point. He does manage story-wise to disappear from the film midway through, enough to become forgettable.

While Luke may have been forgotten, I also forgot that this was a wrestling film. A wrestling film that focuses most of its time on the relationship between Corey and Sheena and leaves the wrestling as a backdrop. There are two matches. Both shot well and exciting to watch, but I suspect not enough to satisfy wrestling fans in general.

Honestly, Chokeslam was a draft or two away from being ready to shoot. While the story is humorous, it lacked laugh out loud moments. It needed to find ways of telling a unique love story and adding the wrestling element to it wasn’t enough.

Chokeslam (2017) Directed by Robert Cuffley. Written by Robert Cuffley and Jason Long. Starring Chris Marquette, Amanda Crew, Niall Matter, Michael Eklund, and Mick Foley.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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