Freezer, like many crime thrillers featuring characters trapped in confined spaces, could have at least been serviceable had it not insisted on being clever. It reveals its cleverness, as most films like this do, in the final act, at which point every question posed by the plot, the character development, and the dialogue is answered. Well, almost every question; given what’s revealed and who’s involved, we’re still left in the dark regarding how anything that happened up to that point was logistically possible. Yes, I’m aware that stories like this are escapist in nature and require suspension of disbelief, but there does come a point at which the cable threatens to snap. The makers of this film clearly didn’t heed the caution signs. If you want the twist ending to work, you must suppress all traces of logical thought.
The overwhelming majority of the action unfolds, as the title makes abundantly clear, within an industrial-sized freezer, the location of which is unknown. It’s stocked with all the traditional perishable fare, including boxes of steak and split pig carcasses hanging from meat hooks. Here, we meet Robert (Dylan McDermott), who comes to with a plastic bag over his head and his wrists and ankles bound with zip ties, all of which he’s able to free himself of quickly. It isn’t long before two goons, who only speak Russian, enter the freezer and begin interrogating him the only way they know how, namely by physically assaulting him. Some time later, another Russian, who speaks English, confronts Robert. Her name is Alisa (Yuliya Snigir), and she wants to know where he hid $8 million.
Naturally, he has no idea what she’s talking about. He doesn’t even know how he got there. The last thing he remembers is going to a Brooklyn restaurant earlier that night with his girlfriend to celebrate his birthday, then getting knocked out during his restroom stop. Besides, it’s not as if he would be capable of stealing such a large amount of money. He’s merely a mechanic. Alisa doesn’t believe a word he’s saying; one of the goons clearly saw him stealing. She tells Robert that he has only about four hours to live, for that’s about the length of time the human body can withstand freezing temperatures. Indeed, when the film opens, the freezer is set at thirty-seven degrees. As it progresses, the temperature steadily lowers, and at various points, Robert is robbed of his clothing. It happens at various times, it should be noted, because other characters cross paths with Robert, and escape plans apparently require the transferring of clothes.
For Alisa, this isn’t about getting back the money that’s rightfully hers. She’s merely trying to save her own life; her abusive boyfriend is the son of a powerful mobster, and if she doesn’t deliver the money as instructed … well, use your imagination. A cell phone call to a police detective, coupled with the unexpected appearance of a cop thought to have been shot dead, factor into Robert’s attempts to escape, albeit not very convincingly. I’m afraid I can’t elaborate on why, as I would have to issue a spoiler warning. Regardless, Robert will repeatedly use a combination of lies and deductive reasoning to convince his Russian captors that he isn’t the thief they’re looking for. Perhaps he isn’t. Then again, perhaps he is. It’s revealed early on that he has a criminal record, so that means we’re supposed to second guess our assumptions about him until the end.
The premise isn’t all that sound, which is bad enough as it is. Making matters worse is the way Robert is developed. Even within the context of an outlandish mystery thriller, how can we expect to invest in a character that maintains a smug, wisecracking disposition with his captors, even as he’s being violently interrogated? Some of Robert’s dialogue is so jokey, it’s as if they were borrowed from one of those brainless action films from the 1980s and ‘90s, where the hero is really just a testosterone-jacked comedian. Maybe that would have been a better direction for this film to go in, because at least then, I would have known to not take what I was watching seriously. As it is, it’s caught in a dull gray zone between escapist fun and pulse-pounding.
There’s something else I noticed that bothered me. Even though Robert ends up spending around four hours in the freezer, and while it’s well established that the ever-lowering temperature is bringing about frostbite and hypothermia, there are only two brief shots in which we actually see his foggy breath. We don’t see anyone else’s foggy breath at all, and even though his captors freely enter and exit the freezer, they stay for long enough periods that they should begin shivering. I mean, come on; Alisa spends the entire film is a blouse and dress pants. But never mind. Freezer is not the kind of film that bothers to consider these details. That’s really a shame, because details tend to add credibility to a story. The best thing I can say about it is that it lasts for only eighty-two minutes.
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Anchor Bay Films