What can be said about Chokeslam? Written and directed by Robert Cuffley, this Canadian film contributes more to the cultural landscape than a WWE match. And that’s not setting the bar high.
Chokeslam follows Corey (Chris Marquette), a deli clerk living at home with his mother, Janet (an underused Gwynyth Walsh, who provides good comic support). Corey lives in a small prairie town where everybody knows everybody else’s name and story, as evidenced when Corey is robbed at work by Luke (Michael Eklund), whom Corey recognizes behind the ski mask (they went to the same high school). Together they attend Corey’s ten-year high school reunion, where Corey hopes to run into Sheena DeWilde (Amanda Crew), Corey’s best friend. Their friendship throughout high school was always platonic, despite Corey’s one-sided and mostly secret crush. Sheena, who channelled her hot temper into a successful wrestling career, does indeed attend the reunion, where it’s revealed that she rejected and subsequently fell out of contact with Corey after he proposed to her in front of the high school during a pep rally for one of Sheena’s matches.
Corey and Sheena hang out, and Sheena reveals that her wresting suspension, imposed during an angry outburst, is about to end. Yet she’d rather not return to the ring, despite the pressure of her boyfriend, Tab (Niall Matter), a confident, tall, and handsome wrestler who has arranged for Sheena to move to Japan to work that country’s wrestling circuit. Corey, thinking that Sheena has decided to retire, arranges for Sheena to have her last fight at the local ring, managed by Patrick (famed ex-WWE wrestler Mick Foley). Except Corey didn’t ask Sheena first. So needless to say, problems arise.
Chokeslam isn’t a great movie. Nor is it horrible. As a romantic comedy, it’s at times awkwardly executed, although it hits all of the genre’s marks (boy almost has girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl). And if you grew up in small-town Canada, where the local wrestling arena can be the biggest attraction on a Saturday night, you’ll probably relate to a life in which everybody knows you and your reputation. Corey has a reputation (he’s perceived as suicidal), Sheena has a reputation (she has a nasty temper) and Luke has a reputation (he’s trouble). And there is that good comic performance from Gwynyth Walsh as Corey’s overprotective mother; she is paranoid yet carries on a secret love life with a neighbour.
Yet the film’s premise–which warrants a half-hour treatment–is stretched over the length of a feature film. Quite often, many scenes consist of Corey talking endlessly of his love of Sheena. Despite the mismatched physical types (Sheena is much taller and stronger than the diminutive and wimpy Corey), there is something a little creepy about a man carrying a ten-year-old torch for a teenage sweetheart he lost touch with eons ago. It’s not quite stalker territory, but at a certain point you wish Corey would move to a large city, get an education and meet a few women. Just sayin’.