What should've been a nice date night for Robert Dorian (Dylan McDermott) just took a turn for the worse. Just a half an hour earlier, Robert was dining at Cafe Dorian with a beautiful redhead, only to be knocked unconscious by mysterious attackers when he stepped into the bathroom to relieve himself. Now he's in some sort of meat freezer, wallet missing, with two smug-looking men who only speak Russian interrogating him. They only know say one word in English: "Money." Eventually, the beautiful Alisa (Yuliya Snigir) shows up to clarify for Stepan (Milan Malisic) and Kiril (Andrey Ivchenko) that the money in question is $8m in Russian mob dough, which vanished earlier that evening. Stepan is sure he saw Robert in a parking garage, and they're determined to get him to talk whether he's got the money or not.
Freezer is one of those movies that tries to make up for a limited budget with a screenwriting exercise: a movie nearly or completely set in a single room, with a minimal cast, and a simple hook, which in this case is the threat of Robert freezing to death. The viewer is only presented with information as fast as Robert is, in the hopes of stringing along the basic mystery -- who has the money? -- as long as possible. It's also, like many of these kinds of movies are, a disappointing exercise in attempted cleverness that is so busy trying to pull a fast one that it never bothers to create any compelling characters or involve the viewer in the story on a dramatic level rather than an artificially intellectual one.
First (or just worst) of all, without giving away the ending, the filmmakers behind Freezer are cheaters. If what little fun there is to be had in a film like this comes from trying to solve the movie's mysteries, it's disappointing that there's no way to deduce Freezer's reveals without shot-in-the-dark guessing at which characters are lying through their teeth to artificially extend the film. The deception in Freezer does sort of attempt to justify itself in the end, which is arguably more effort than many of these movies muster, but most of the characters' deception is necessary for the movie to function, not the characters. Too much of Freezer's trickery is there to fool the audience, rather than a logical course of action for the people trapped in this situation.
Still, even if Freezer didn't cheat, the "thrills" here aren't all that interesting, thanks to a cast that practically blends into the set decoration. Dylan McDermott's performance, which makes up most of the film, isn't wooden or artificial, but he feels wrong for the part, trying and failing to inject spirit into a character whose "bad boy" attitude is too limply written to register. His bitter, sarcastic one-liners also feel out of character for a man who just woke up wrongfully accused by deadly mobsters he doesn't know, and his physical energy level is often subdued (most noticeable when he's supposed to be trying to break one of the freezer's fans). The rest of the cast doesn't fare any better, either. Peter Facinelli sleepwalks through the role of a cop who is also trapped in the freezer and is nursing a gunshot wound, spewing as much exposition as blood, Snigir and the rest of the minimal cast couldn't fill a cup of chemistry between them.
Directorially, Mikael Salomon falls in step with his performers, adequately making use of a limited setting but never bringing it to life. He may not run out of angles inside the cramped icebox, but it's never a more interesting or memorable location than it would be in real life. Scenes drag on to account for tension that doesn't exist, and Salomon's attempts to generate a chaotic atmosphere through panic and aggravation fall flat. There might be a movie worth watching in the premise of Freezer, but, like a slab of frozen meat, it'd require some finesse before anyone should attempt to eat it.
Considering the film takes place in a single location, a cool blue image of McDermott in the freezer in question is the obvious image for the front cover of Anchor Bay's Blu-Ray. The disc comes in an eco-friendly 2-disc Viva Elite case with the Blu-Ray, DVD copy, and digital copy code inside.
The Video and Audio
Don't let the banding and noise during the opening credits fool you. Freezer's 2.35:1 1080p AVC transfer offers the expected high-def levels of detail, albeit in that distinctly digital, sterile way. The grainless image is nicely detailed, but not distractingly sharp, and color reproduction is very pleasing (despite the front cover and the way the premise practically begs the cinematographer to give in, the movie has not been artificially graded to a steely blue). The only minor complaint is that blacks could be a little deeper. It's unremarkable, but only in the ways that should be expected.
The sole audio option is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, which gets the job done adequately. Although the movie is limited, there are actually a number of opportunities for surround effects, including multiple McDermott beatings, electrical wires, gunshots, and more, all of which have a certain low-budget artificiality to them, but are spread across the soundfield in the expected way. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also provided.
An extremely minimal selection of extras are included, all in HD. "Freezer: Behind It All" (3:36) is a bite-sized but surprisingly informative featurette on the film's production, revealing that the freezer set was genuinely refrigerated, as well as showing the set's versatility, allowing for shots from every angle. It's also kind of funny to see Ivchenko interviewed while covered in blood. Still, even at this length, a portion of this extra is film clips -- almost a feat. Additional bits of the interview segments with McDermott (2:15), Facinelli (1:47), and Salomon (2:31) finish off the bonuses, which also contain more clips.
Surprisingly, no trailers of any kind are included -- none before the main menu, and no trailer for Freezer.
Every once in awhile, a low-budget thriller with a great hook comes along, one that makes the most of a simple premise and a limited budget through imagination and invention. Freezer is not that movie. Skip It.
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