Director Mikael Salomon’s Freezer was released just recently, and as it’s a bit under the radar, it’s likely anybody who hears of it for the first time won’t know exactly what it’s about. Of course, the title gives a few distinct possibilities. With a title like that, it could be about a superhero or villain with ice powers. It could be about some action hero who is nicknamed “the Freezer” for his skill at putting the bad guys “on ice”. It could even be about a casino operator trying to cool down the gamblers on hot streaks. Or it could be about a guy in a freezer.
I’ll give a hint: the reason viewers aren’t seeing this film crop up on their theatre marquees is because it was released direct-to-video.
Locked in a freezer it is, then.
Freezer stars Dylan McDermott as Robert, who awakens from a concussion to find himself locked in a meat freezer. He doesn’t know where he is, or why he was attacked and abducted. At least… not until his captors come in and start working him over. There are a couple Russian mafia thugs who deliver beatings on him regularly, but they don’t speak English. Eventually, they bring in another mafia agent, Alisa (Yuliya Snigir) to translate, and Robert finds out why he’s there. The Russians have lost $8 million, and they believe he is the one responsible. As Robert tries to protest his innocence, they use the freezer and assorted petty cruelties to encourage him to change his tune.
When a film features an isolated protagonist in a limited locale, a common piece of critical praise is to point out how it showcases the actor’s ability to truly act when there isn’t much to react to. Examples include Tom Hanks’ performance in Cast Away, or the more recent praise given to Robert Redford for All Is Lost. It doesn’t really apply here. McDermott is certainly a capable b-grade actor, and he’s certainly the best actor in this movie, but when his character is isolated he doesn’t really have much acting to do beyond “pretend to be cold”. This pretense is reasonably well done on McDermott’s part, as he certainly seems to be bothered by it, but it’s let down by the effects. His breath never forms condensation, there’s little indication of frost on the items inside the freezer, and it’s not until the last fifteen minutes or so of his hours-long stay that he’s made-up to look as if he’s being affected by exposure to extreme cold. The audience has to make some pretty big allowances to buy into it.
What works a little bit better is the cat-and-mouse game between McDermott and Snigir. Despite pleading his innocence, McDermott’s character can’t seem to resist baiting Snigir’s. He insults his captors, makes smart aleck remarks about the money’s location, and most particularly keeps suggestively hinting that Snigir should keep him warm. Snigir in turn portrays a woman who alternates between trying to intimidate him into talking and hinting that maybe she’d be amenable to his come-ons if he’d just do her this tiny little favor of bailing her out of her boss’s bad graces by telling her where the money is. The dialogue is pretty hackneyed, but the scenes work moderately well thanks to the chemistry between the two actors.
Still, there’s little enough to recommend this film. If one stumbles across it during a late-night channel surf, it’ll provide reasonable entertainment for an hour and a half. But there’s not much point in actively seeking it out. Although there is a nice and relatively unexpected twist at the end.