Set in small-town Saskatchewan, Robert Cuffley’s “Chokeslam” is the story of 28-year-old Corey Swanson (Chris Marquette), a deli clerk whose high-school sweetheart turned heartbreaker, Sheena DeWilde (Amanda Crew), returns home for their 10-year reunion. Now Sheena moonlights as a pro wrestler under the name of Smasheena, she is everything Swanson is not. Swanson is still a hopelessly obsessed nerd who lives with his overbearing mother and sees Sheena’s homecoming as a chance to win her back by arranging her retirement match at a local venue.
Director Cuffley manages to elevate “Chokeslam” to being more than just a simple romantic-comedy by giving his actors space to perform. The low-budget wrestling scenes in a historic building showcase a small town with a great deal of charm, juxtaposed with the overwhelming awkwardness of a high school reunion. The viewer gains a sense of nostalgia and discomfort.
Corey lives in a small prairie town where everybody knows everybody else’s name and story. We really see this when Corey is robbed at work by Luke (Michael Eklund), whom Corey recognizes behind the ski mask (they went to the same high school). Then together they go Corey’s ten-year high school reunion, where Corey hopes to run into Sheena, his one-sided and mostly secret crush. Sheena, who channeled her hot temper into a successful wrestling career, comes to the reunion, where we learn 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 shares that she is on suspension from wrestling because of an angry outburst but it is about to end. She is not eager to return to the ring even though her boyfriend, Tab (Niall Matter) has arranged for Sheena to move to Japan to work that country’s wrestling circuit. Corey, thinks that Sheena has decided to retire and arranges for her to have her last fight at the local ring, managed by Patrick (ex-WWE wrestler Mick Foley). However, Corey didn’t ask Sheena and problems arise.
Yet the film’s premise–should not have taken more than a half-hour is stretched over the length of a feature film thus making it feel awkward at times. There are many scenes of Corey talking endlessly about his love of Sheena and I feel that it is kind of strange that he has been carrying a ten-year-old torch for a teenage sweetheart he lost touch with years before. Robert Cuffley’s basic approach works well when capturing Sheena’s fights in the ring and he is excellent at establishing post-secondary lifestyles, making it easy for audiences to believe the relationships within the characters’ world. This is, quite simply, a cute film.