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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.06.16] Canada action comedy

One of the things I love most about festivals is discovering something new and loglines don't get much stranger than "wrestling romantic comedy." But I'm cheating a little here because Chokeslam isn't really a new discovery but rather a movie I've been looking forward to since it premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival.

A passion project for writer/director Robert Cuffley (who a few years ago was responsible for the great thriller Ferocious (review), this comedy stars Chris Marquette as Corey, a nice guy who stuck around the small town he grew up in. His 10th anniversary high school re-union is around the corner and with it comes the return of Sheena, his best friend throughout high school. The pair had a falling out before graduation and haven't talked since Sheena left town to pursue a career in professional wrestling.

A minor celebrity, Sheena is piecing together a return to wrestling after a year in the minor leagues following a suspension. Her career seems to be heading back on track but her return home and a reunion with Corey leads her to re-consider her future and what follows is a sweet and humorous story of friends rekindling their relationship amidst bouts of wrestling, psychology sessions at the local hardware store and Corey's eager to help but mostly just screw up friend Luke.

Though the central story of Chokeslam is that of Corey coming to terms with the return of Sheena and what that means for his life, I love that Sheena's story of coming to terms with what she really wants is just as important and central to the story. Sure, Corey's story arc is a romance but Sheena's is far more interesting: an exploration of an artist who has reached a crossroads of her career and is trying to figure out what's next.

It sounds a little heady but Chokeslam is light hearted and funny not to mention it features a good amount of wrestling action including a final showdown that turns into an impromptu doubles match that Vince McMahon would be proud of.

Marquette is perfectly cast as the mild tempered central character while Amanda Crew fits Sheena's role perfectly as both the athletic super-star bound teenager and the more mature and conflicted professional wrestler; she totally looks the part physically while also delivering emotionally. As good as both they and the supporting cast is, it's Cuffley's long-time collaborator Michael Eklund who steals every scene he appears in. His comedic timing and physical comedy are so much fun to watch. It's great to see Eklund finally coming into the acclaim he so richly deserves.

Chokeslam is a charming and funny movie and though there is a touch of romance, the movie is really the story of two people coming to terms with their past and rekindling their friendship - with a wrestling match (or two) thrown in for good measure.

Chokeslam will open across Canada in March 2017.

Recommended Release: Walk All Over Me

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