Driven by intense desires and baser instincts, the unpredictability of human nature can beat any odds and turn socio-economic conventions on their heads on a whim while doing so. The message conveyed by the last quarter of the Turkish thriller “Chokehold” becomes the saving grace of the otherwise tedious movie. Released on Netflix, the movie is directed by Onur Saylak, whose best works critique the existing status quo, which is the same in the case of “Chokehold” for most of the part, except cynicism has replaced subtlety, big time, for this venture. The movie, which follows a privileged criminal as he finds it exceedingly tough to turn over a new leaf after seemingly leaving the past behind, manages to play with the audience’s expectations by the end, which could have worked better if not for a monotonous buildup.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Chokehold’?
As the movie begins, we are introduced to Yalin, an ex-convict from a privileged background who embezzled public money through his Ponzi scheme, served jail time, but managed to get bail in exchange for ratting out his other partners. With the countrywide inflation already pinning the people of Turkey to their knees, the major scandal of embezzlement has caused an extreme outcry, and Yalin has moved from Istanbul to the village of Assos in order to avoid the heat. Also, betraying his partners in crime has made Yalin a potential target for the vengeful actions taken by the former. Yalin lives with his wife, Beyza, who loves him dearly and is concerned about his mental state after everything that’s gone down in the recent past. As the couple moves to the village of Assos, Beyza wants Yalin to start socializing in order to move on with his life.
What Happened With Yalin In Assos?
The class conflict and simmering hatred of working-class people against people like Yalin are highlighted pretty early in the movie. Yalin used to live in Assos during his younger days, and coming from a rich family, people treated him with respect. After the embezzlement scenario, however, things have changed a lot, and even some of the formerly helpful locals are refusing to assist him in any way. At the same time, some are trying to present themselves as useful in order to gain favors.
After Beyza sends Yalin to buy a gift for an upcoming invitation, he stumbles upon a rundown curio shop and searches for a suitable gift item. The owner of the shop is running errands, and a certain short-tempered fellow, Cevdet, who lost his mother’s life’s savings in Yalin’s Ponzi scheme, is managing the shop in his stead. After spotting Yalin loitering in the shop, Cevdet verbally threatens him at first and later tries to strangle him to death using a rope. Somehow managing to get free, Yalin hits him in the head using an Aristotelian bust, which kills the assailant instantly. The cruel, sadistic irony of upper-class people discussing the intrigues of Socrates’ philosophy (who spent part of his life in Assos) while the underprivileged ones get their heads bashed in by the affluent ones is almost hilarious.
Fearing that the corpse will raise suspicion, Yalin buries it in a secluded territory. Despite what the victims of Yalin’s fraudulent business think, his elite associates consider him to be a visionary, much like the legendary economist Eubulus, who managed to avert war through his influence on finances. They go as far as to even defend Yalin against a conspiracy that seeks to serve the greedy ones, who dipped their feet in a risky venture out of greed anyway.
During a trip to the wilderness with Beyza and her friends, Yalin meets the local police authority, and during a private chat regarding Cevdet’s disappearance, the chief, Selami Toker, clarifies that Yalin will not receive any help from their side. In fact, he is counting on Yalin getting what he deserves, which he will readily allow to happen since he, too, lost money in Yalin’s scheme. As Yalin starts getting nightmares due to pent-up guilt, he faces threats from his former associates as well. To remind Yalin of his betrayal, a severed snake head is sent to him.
Yalin tries to learn about the possibility of relocation from his lawyer and learns that any such attempt will work against his cause. Furthermore, the lawyer informs him that any unwarranted trouble popping up in this situation will void the deal right away. Panic starts to engulf him as he starts hallucinating that the spirit of Cevdet is haunting him, and at the same time, the threat of any impending attack keeps Yalin on his toes. To make matters worse, a bankrupt schoolteacher self-immolates in front of the media, which gets televised and increases Yalin’s anxiety manifold. Yalin wants to know the identity of the person who informed the authority about the fraudulent nature of his scheme in the first place, but his lawyer is unable to find him. Another attempt is made on Yalin’s life, this time by a shovel-wielding groundskeeper, who also meets the same fate as Cevdet as Yalin chokes him to death. Realizing he is simply living on borrowed time, Yalin makes a desperate attempt to move to the other side of the bay in Greece.
Did Yalin Escape At The End?
Beyza takes Yalin to a concert, where Yalin gets attacked by a hitman, whom he kills after a prolonged struggle. By now, taking lives has almost become second nature to Yalin, and he conveniently dumps the body of the assailant into a well nearby. After returning home, Yaline tells Beyza that they need to prepare to leave for Greece the next morning. A confused Beyza asks him the reason for saying so, and Yalin remarks that he considers the entire village to be after his life, and the local authority isn’t willing to help either. As Yalin is currently surviving on his father’s money and is without a source of income, Beyza asks how they can even afford a life in a foreign land. Yaline digs up a secret stash of money worth one million euros, which he had stowed in his garden, and shows it to Beyza.
Beyza suddenly gets livid and starts cursing Yalin. She states that the blood money isn’t theirs; it belongs to the public. In her anger, Beyza confesses that she is the whistle-blower—she is the person Yalin is looking for who informed authorities about the fraudulent nature of her husband’s business. Yalin has a hard time believing it initially but gets convinced when Beyza remarks about going to the authorities with the money. Beyza blames herself for even considering that Yalin could change and choosing to live with him, going against her career, family, and friends—and losing all these in the process. Beyza remarks about the opportunity for a better life that she almost considered after Yalin got arrested, which is abruptly cut short when Yalin bludgeons her to death with a hammer. A completely psychotic Yalin keeps on goading in front of the lifeless remains of his wife and even remarks that he’d rather wish that she cheated instead of betraying him like this.
The next morning, instead of making his trip to the other side of the bay, Yalin secretly deposits the one million euros in a basket, which he leaves in front of a local eatery, and the police get informed about it. As Yalin returns to his home and sits in his garden, the police, local villagers, and even Beyza’s local friend arrive at his front gate one by one. In the garden, a table has been set up where Selami Tokar, the local police chief, joins Yalin and asks questions about the recent disappearances of the villagers. Yalin is dumbfounded, and the officer answers that the villagers must have settled on the other side of the bay, conveniently hinting that he is now eager to brush aside the whole fiasco now that Yalin has proven himself useful by sending over the money. Beyza’s friend asks about her but isn’t too concerned after learning that she has ‘left’ the place already and even offers to make breakfast for Yalin and the people present there. One by one, villagers enter and sit with Yalin at the breakfast table; among them are Yalin’s privileged elite associates, as well as those morally uptight ones who want to have no connection with an ex-con.
The entire village knows about Yalin’s recent actions but is willing to brush the past aside now that the money has bought their loyalty and silence. Truly, greed is the greatest equalizer, and even to drive the point home, in the last sequence, the dog, who had been present in most of the spots where Yalin dug up either to take or deposit money or dead bodies, symbolizes the ever-vigilant law, arrives and sits by Yalin’s side. The movie ends with a seemingly fourth wall-breaking shot where all the present characters look directly at the audience, almost as if mocking any sort of convenient justice they had hoped for. In the end, Yalin not only manages to maintain the lavish life created on the pile of bodies of the less fortunate, but he also manages to ensure his safety by earning the fealty of the people who antagonized him through and through. Without having the intellectual prowess of Eubulus, Yalin managed to ‘end the war’ similarly through the influence of wealth.