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Freezer (2014) Review

Freezer was directed by Mikael Salomon (The Company, Instrument of Hope), written by Tom Doganoglu (8 Million Dollars, You’re Fired) and Shane Weisfeld, and stars Dylan McDermott (The Practice, Hollywood), Yulia Snigir (Rasputin, Polar Flight), Andrey Ivchenko (Stranger Things, Scramble), Mickey Milan (Lloyd Loses Everything, Parkdale), and Peter Facinelli (Catch the Bullet, Nurse Jackie). It’s about a man who’s been locked in a freezer and forced to reveal the location of $8 million in stolen cash or find a way out before he dies.

The Plot: Talk about thawing out an old idea – Doganoglu and Weisfeld don’t have much originality to spare for Freezer. For a limited-location film, the plot holds most of the beats one would expect, but with a nice clip to play at.

Rudely awakening in a meat freezer is bad, and waking with arms and legs bound is even worse. That’s how Robert’s (McDermott) day is going, and the air is starting to blow. Salomon has a good start gifted to him, with what will soon be revealed to be a standard issue B-movie plot getting its gears turning quickly. Kiril (Ivchenko) and Stepan (Milan) roll in with similar speed, speaking one word in English: “money”. The writers aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but that appears what the goal is soon.

Further details come into play once Alisa (Snigir) clarifies that a Russian mobster thinks that Robert stole $8 million earlier and isn’t giving it up. As mentioned: lots of familiar plot beats. Unfortunately, the reveal of detective Gurov (Facinelli, phoning it in) being locked in alongside Robert is the last major piece of the puzzle, and Freezer begins to slide them all together in a rather generic but moderately entertaining way. Holes get poked in the script soon enough, and it all builds to a finale that’s a complete whiff of betrayals and ill-explained relationships.

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Not every plot needs to be inventive, but a bit of commitment to the straightforwardness in Freezer’s first hour would’ve made the blandness of the narrative sting a lot less.

The Characters: The writers almost wind up with a one-man show, but there’s not enough depth in the script for that kind of reach, so there’s a constant inclusion of checkups on the lead to give him something to play off of, but not much.

Robert is essentially a Bruce Willis character as played by Dylan McDermott, and that’s not a bad idea. He’s brashly charming, always able to swing back with some witticisms, no matter how grim his situation looks. His past isn’t given too much attention, except for some clunky exposition that got into trouble and then got out to become a mechanic. Robert’s ability to just keep trucking is admirable, but it gets him into worse scenarios at the hands of the Russians. McDermott carries a lot of weight very well here.

Said Russians aren’t much beyond their background. Kiril and Stepan are thinly done versions of two stale archetypes: the scummy coward and the strong, silent muscle; whereas Alisa is the communicator who does but also doesn’t have time for Robert’s schtick. All three scowl and yell acceptably, but don’t offer much else.

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Gurov is just a person for Robert to bounce off of, as his backstory is as bland as can be. He’s an undercover cop who got in too deep to get away clean. Once the money got stolen, fingers were pointed at him, and all he wants is to get back to his emotionally distant kid. Adding a wounded man all but assures his fate, and it doesn’t help with the cliche count; but then again, Freezer doesn’t count anything but temperature drops.

The Thrills: Discomfort is illustrated well in Freezer. Though it doesn’t stretch too hard to get all the requisite bodily harm and escape attempts, it never needs to, sticking with the apt basics to a more successful result.

Oncoming hypothermia is the most obvious threat, and Salomon does a good job of utilizing the titular location to set that train in motion. Robert only has the clothes on his back to keep him warm, and since he was out at a birthday dinner, they aren’t the thickest. Because of this, it’s always a fight to stay warm, and Robert does plenty of exercises to keep up his body heat and heart rate. Things escalate once Kiril and Stepan take away his shoes and his spirit, making staying alive even harder.

All of this is broken up by a handful of escape attempts; not all of them are of sound decision-making. The first is the most entertaining, as Robert wastes no time in trying to skip past the brutes before he even knows why he’s locked up, only to be stopped and left to try and charm them. It does get repetitive, as there are at least two more tries before he puts his skills as a mechanic into use, but each one (except a rouse involving Gurov) plays out earnestly as a next to last-ditch effort.

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Intimidation and violence are unsurprisingly present, but it takes a while before the goons really start putting the hurt on Robert. At first, Freezer lets the baddies demean Robert, taking his shoes and his clothes, sans the motorcycle, and eventually graduates to throwing buckets of water on the man before beating him up. It’s a torrent of cold punishment, and it’s spaced out nicely, ramping up only in the last third so as to give Robert a chance to admit to taking money he doesn’t have.

Meat freezers aren’t the most original holding cells, and Freezer itself doesn’t go for broke, but it raises tension effectively and retains some level of excitement as its protagonist shakes and shivers harder.

The Technics: Limited and/or single-location films are some of the hardest to make interesting – if the location isn’t intimidating or otherwise believable enough – the movie is over before it begins; Freezer sits firmly in the middle.

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82 minutes is an appropriate length for a movie as derivative as this one. Pacing is no problem for Freezer, as it gets everything laid out within 25 minutes and allows the titular location to do the heavy lifting for much of the runtime that follows. Salomon’s direction of that reduced length isn’t anything special, but he gets the job done competently and without frills. Some sequences could’ve been replaced (take away an escape attempt or two and no one would care) with a deeper understanding of Robert or more details about the Russian money, but in a movie like this, you take what you can get.

Salomon’s small makeup team did a decent job of selling the toll that the cold takes on Robert and Gurov by adding frost on their eyebrows, gradually reddening their fingers, and whitening their faces. It’s too limited a movie to show just how far that effect can be taken, but you’ll see the cold. Keeping the fans rotating and the air flowing almost constantly also allows the cold to be heard, maintaining the atmosphere well, though without any special attention to detail.

Freezer is a perfectly fine one-location thriller. The plot is generic, the technical aspects are acceptable, and the excitement is moderated; McDermott, though, is the reason to watch, as he delivers a solid wisecracking performance.

Currently, Freezer is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital platforms via Freestyle Digital Media. And if Freezer left you cold, FilmTagger can suggest some other titles.

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