Looking back on Freezer, a thriller about a car mechanic (Dylan McDermott) confined in a walk-in freezer by Russian mobsters who believe he stole $8 million from them, I can pinpoint the exact moment when my shoulders sagged and I groaned, “Oh, it’s one of those movies.” The revelation came when, after a tense confrontation between McDermott’s Robert Saunders and an icy femme fatale type (Yuliya Snigir), she walks out, the freezer door slams shut and… we’re left to stare at McDermott’s vacant mug for the next ten minutes.
Yep, Freezer is a single-location thriller (or a claustrocore flick, if you want to get fancy about it), following in the footsteps of movies like Buried (Ryan Reynolds in a coffin), Devil (assorted chumps in an elevator with Satan) and Frozen (not the awesome Disney musical, the less-awesome horror flick about three friends stuck on a ski-lift). Unfortunately, when compared to any of those movies (yes, even Devil, as much as I love to hate on Shyamalan), Freezer has about as much narrative pull as an actual freezer’s instruction manual.
In order for movies set in one location to remain bearable for over ten minutes, serviceable actors, a strong script and interesting direction are all must-haves. Freezer falls flat in each of those categories, so one of the nicest things I can say about the movie is that it didn’t stick around long enough for my nagging dislike to turn into full-blown hatred. At a heavily edited 82 minutes, Freezer doesn’t drag things out for much longer than it needs to in order to be considered feature-length.
That’s a very good thing, considering writers Tom Doganoglu and Shane Weisfeld can’t find enough story to fill two pages of script. Neither writer has a grip on the same “show, not tell” mentality we all picked up on back in middle school English class, so whenever exposition appears, it’s so densely packed that it lands with all the grace of a sack of bricks.
When the twists and turns start flying, Freezer abandons all sense of plausibility and opts instead for blindingly dumb spectacle. The filmmakers’ intentions were evidently to deliver enough twists to keep watchers engaged, but the main issue is that nothing on screen is ever even remotely intriguing. Attempting to piece together the story is a lot more trouble than it’s worth, trust me.
Burdened with an incongruent, often nonsensical script, McDermott can’t make Saunders believable, likable or even particularly interesting. He clearly took his cues from the John McClane School of Snarky One-Liners, but the quips he has to work with are not only bad but scattered all over the movie like storm debris. For a supposedly normal guy who wakes up trapped in a freezer with armed mobsters, Saunders is also off-puttingly sarcastic and flippant. It’s painfully obvious that McDermott is struggling to make a haphazardly constructed character work, but by committing to the character’s random personality shifts, all he does is drive home the stupidity of Freezer‘s script.
The supporting cast doesn’t fare any better. Snigir, best known for straddling a motorcycle in the otherwise contemptible A Good Day to Die Hard, can’t do menacing for her life, so her frequent staring contests with McDermott are agonizingly boring, never thrilling. The two Russian mobsters at her side (Andrey Ivchenko and Milan Malisic) glower and chortle convincingly, but they aren’t served well by a script that has them exhibiting ridiculously poor judgment in almost every scene. When Peter Facinelli pops up as a wounded cop stowed in the back of the freezer, the film picks up for a few minutes, only to slump back down into a dramatic no man’s land as soon as Facinelli starts sleep-walking through his lines.
Director Mikael Salomon was put in a tricky position, being asked to use his limited setting to craft a compelling story. And though the writers are certainly to blame for Freezer‘s inadequacy, Salomon also never breathes any life into his shots. Under his clinical gaze, the freezer is just a freezer, never anything more interesting or evocative. For a movie confined to one setting, more intense direction would have been a marked improvement. Then again, the few fight scenes that Salomon does attempt fall completely flat, with jerky camera movements and a bizarre slo-mo, blurred-lens trick that only frustrates.
The best claustrocore movies make great use of their settings and have legitimate reasons to remain in them. In Freezer, the one setting is likely a consequence of the film’s limited budget, but even so, the entire film is a dramatic dead zone. McDermott tries his best but fails to salvage a cartoonish character, and the film’s writing is often brutally bad. Pardon the obvious pun, but as a thriller, Freezer left me cold.
Anchor Bay Entertainment released Freezer with a 1080p AVC transfer, which does a solid job with the shiny, icy visuals of the freezer. Details are well-captured, and there are only a few instances when banding creeps into shots. No complaints, though the limited setting means that Freezer certainly isn’t much to look at.
The only audio option is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, which does its job and never really stumbles in delivering solid audio. Some sound effects, like gun shots, sound a little fake, but the sound effects never distract from the movie as a whole.
Freezer‘s special features are pretty miserable and run less than ten minutes collectively. The Blu-Ray includes
- DVD copy
- Digital HD UltraViolet copy
- Freezer: Behind It All
- Interviews with actor Dylan McDermott, actor Peter Facinelli, and director Mikael Salomon
“Freezer: Behind It All” runs just over three minutes and offers a few interesting points about the production of the film, including that it was actually kept cold on set so McDermott could stay in character (to which I respond, then where was his breath for the whole movie?). It’s too short to make for an interesting watch, but compared to the interviews, it’s solid.
None of the interviews answer any questions about Freezer, with McDermott, Facinelli and Salomon all offering different (but really the same) takes on why they’re proud of their film. At one minute and 47 seconds, Facinelli’s interview is by far the slightest (the others are each around three minutes), but none of the interviews offer information that’s particularly worth knowing about the film.
It’s a shame that Freezer fails so completely, because its premise could have been interesting in the hands of better writers and a more adventurous director. As it stands, the film is, at its best, mediocre, and at its worst, painfully incompetent. The whole cast deserves better, as does just about everyone who might stumble across it.
Pardon the obvious pun, but as a thriller, Freezer left me cold.