Film Threat received a copy of Choke from it’s director writer John Sjogren with a crumpled up note on the back of a bit player’s head shot explaining that it didn’t exactly have the same budget as “Pearl Harbor.” Expecting the worst I popped in the screener copy and saw an insanely entertaining trailer for a movie with Dennis Hopper and Michæl Madsen, which made me immediately think to myself “Jesus I would so rather see that right now.” I’ve loved Michæl Madsen ever since he did that sick Van Gogh dance to Stealer’s Wheel as sort of an evil Elvis Presley in Reservoir Dogs. I’m not a huge Hopper fan but God knows his presence always assures the viewer that a fair amount of lunacy is sure to follow. Imagine my surprised delight when I realized that Choke was in fact the movie featured in the trailer.
“Choke” turns out to be an odd sort of homage to those Hitchcock movies like “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and “North by Northwest,” where an innocent man gets sucked into some absurd vortex of coincidences that make him look as though he’s committed some horrendous crime.
By odd sort of homage I’m thinking Alfred if he had been constantly hooked up to a healthy supply of Nitrous Oxide. “Choke” puts forward Hopper in the Cary Grant role, which immediately lets you know that we’re not necessarily starting out with a clean slate.
Hopper is a semi ethical businessman who is having a really bad day. His daughter has drunkenly run down the son of the district attorney right as he’s being harassed by the slimiest low budget grifter in the history of the movies. An hour later, Hopper is dumping the guy out of a second story bathroom, seconds after threatening to kill the con man on the guy’s answering machine, in front of his two secretaries, and finally to his face ten feet away from a couple of donut eating cops.
Fortunately, Madsen is there, saw the whole thing, and is eager to help. Madsen it turns out is the kind of guy, who picks up hitchhikers, harasses cops by loitering his car in a handicapped zone, and pulls into a service station for a full service fill up all with two dead bodies dripping blood from the trunk of his vintage Dodge. If you thought Hopper wasn’t happy to be hooked up with Madsen in the first place, check him out when he finds evidence in the glove compartment which pretty much informs him that the Boston Strangler had nothing on his new partner in crime.
Choke’s bravura bit of nonsense is a discussion between the two stars as they wait for the sun to go down so they can hide their respective victims. Hopper insists that he is normally not the killing type, while Madsen suggests to Dennis that he may just be a late bloomer. As the two lie to each other about their childhoods the viewer gets to see what really happened. Hopper doesn’t know it but he was given up for adoption by a young Jewish woman who was impregnated by a Nazi. What does this have to do with the rest of movie? As far as I can tell absolutely nothing, but I bet Sjogren and his buddies were laughing their a***s off when they filmed it.
About a thousand other weird and wonderful things happen to cloud up an already convoluted stew. Eventually the millions of loose kinky ends are all tied up and everything amazingly winds up making about as much sense as it deserves to. Frankly, I’m taking this movie about as seriously as an old episode of Mr. Ed, but damn if it isn’t a riotously warped joyride of implausible creepiness.