14th Nov2017

‘Chokeslam’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Chris Marquette, Amanda Crew, Michael Eklund, Niall Matter, Gwynyth Walsh, Mick Foley, Harry Smith, Laurel Van Ness, Lance Storm, Paul James Saunders, Graham Bell, Agam Darshi, Meghan Heffern | Written by Robert Cuffley, Jason Long | Directed by Robert Cuffley

chokeslam-dvd

Corey Swanson has problems. He’s almost 30, still lives in his mom’s basement, doesn’t date, and his career amounts to slicing meat in an archaic deli that no one ever comes to – unless they want to rob it. After a chance encounter with a popular former classmate, Corey learns that his high school crush Sheena Halliday will soon be in town for their 10-year reunion. Sheena, now a world-famous athlete, has been dubbed “the Lindsay Lohan of the wrestling world”. She twists and pounds people into oblivion for a living – the same thing she did to Corey’s heart back in high school. Corey puts his broken heart (and punched face) aside, and with the help of his new friend, he helps Sheena bring her act to the small town she left years ago…

Wrestling hasn’t always translated well to the screen. Despite the success of Netflix’s comedy drama Glow, for every The Wrestler there’s a Ready to Rumble, for every Body Slam there’s a Paradise Alley. Thankfully Chokeslam follows in the footsteps of Glow, The Wrestler and Body Slam in more ways than one.

First off, the film features a tremendously likeable cast led by Chris Marquette, Amanda Crew and Michael Eklund. Marquette has been killing it as a great go-to funny leading man in numerous films since 2009′s Fanboys and does it once again here; whilst Crew – so, so good in Silicon Valley – really looks like she dedicated herself to the role of “Smasheena,” pulling off wrestling moves with aplomb. The pair also have a great chemistry, making their relationship even more believeable. And Eklund? Well Eklund does what he does best… Almost stealing the movie with witty one liners and a character that has much greater depth than your usual “friend of the lead” role.

Much like Body Slam, which featured popular 80s wrestlers in supporting roles, Chokeslam‘s cast are ably supported by real-life wrestlers Harry Smith (son of the British Bulldog Day Boy Smith), TNA/Impact Wrestling’s Laurel Van Ness (credited here as Chelsea Green), Canadian professional wrestler Lance Storm and the legend that is Mick Foley – who’s charisma and likeability exudes from the screen each and every second he’s on screen.

And that’s the thing. It’s not just Mick Foley, every aspect of Chokeslam exudes charm. The film may be small in scale but has a heart, soul and grit you wouldn’t typically find in glossy American rom-com. It is, for wont of a better explanation, a Canadian production that feels unmistakebly “Canadian.” It’s the type of indie rom-com Canada does so well – think the small town sensibilities of Corner Town Gas meets the charm of I’m Reed Fish (which was led by fellow Canadian actor/writer/director Jay Baruchel).

Of course there’s bound to be comparisons with the aforementioned Glow, especially given the female wrestling angle but Chokeslam is different. It’s a much smaller story, one that focuses on the relationship of its two leads rather than an ensemble, yet not at the expense of any character or plot point. It’s the type of rom-com structure that John Hughes perfected in the 80s and one that still works to this day.

**** 4/5

Chokeslam is available on DVD and VOD now from Cockerel Entertainment.

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