When businessman Yalin (Kivanç Tatlitug) and his wife Beyza (Funda Eryigit) try to escape the fallout from an embezzlement scandal in which he was involved, retreating to an estate near the small town of Assos seems like an ideal move. However, when news spreads of Yalin’s actions reaches the townspeople, many of whom lost their savings as a result, he is confronted by them. What ensues is a spiral into darkness from which Yalin appears unable t0 escape.
Director Saylak and screenwriter Hakan Gunday do an impressive job of conveying how Yalin’s guilt and fears of public retribution slowly degrade into paranoia. In particular, the scenes where his confrontations of the shop owner and gardener devolve into their murders effectively summarise the depths of Yalin’s desperation to avoid facing the consequences of his actions.
In addition, Saylak and Gunday heighten the tension during scenes where Yali is with people who are seemingly ignorant about his actions, such as Beyza, and when he encounters people who suspect him of either the murders or the embezzlement. The use of hallucinations further helps to emphasise the extent of Yalin’s mental deterioration as he attempts to escape from judgement and provide an impressive contrast to the more naturalistic mise en scène of the rest of the film.
The strong performances are also central to the effectiveness of the narrative, with Tatlitug providing an impressively intense performance as Yalin, adeptly alternating between the personas of confident businessman, haunted murderer, and arrogant con-man without any of them seeming false.
Also impressive are the performances of Eryigit and Onur Gürçay, with the latter providing a quietly menacing presence as the police officer on Yalin’s trail and the former succeeding on multiple levels as Beyza, capturing the character’s seeming naivety for the majority of the film, before revealing her hidden knowledge at the climax, which makes the narrative twist involving her more plausible then it would have been in lesser hands.
Whilst Gunday’s script does feature the occasional implausibility, such as the frequency of Yalin’s murders providing the risk of veering the overall tone towards black comedy, the general direction and execution of the material is accomplished, with director, writer and cast ensuring that a gradually ominous tone is maintained throughout as Yalin struggles to escape his fate.
Chokehold is an effectively gripping thriller that makes its seemingly-unlikable main character’s literal and psychological downfall compelling viewing through accomplished writing, directing and a powerful lead performance.
Screening on Netflix now