A low-budget thriller that conserves its resources by restricting most of its action to the titular cold room, “Freezer” is a mediocre work built on a flimsy, nonsensical premise that squanders its modest potential with a cornucopia of bad plot twists. The film occasionally comes alive thanks to the strength of Dylan McDermott’s wise-cracking performance as a wronged man trapped by Russian mobsters, but the strained script rarely provides more than an occasional inventive moment. First theatrical feature in 15 years from prolific TV director Mikael Salomon (“Coma,” “The Company”) may find a niche genre audience on VOD.
Shot in an appropriately drab, low-grade style befitting the plot, the film opens with former con turned nice-guy mechanic Robert (McDermott) awaking in a meat freezer with ties around his hands and legs. He soon finds himself in front of two Russian thugs (Milan Malisic and Andrey Ivchenko) who only speak a single word of English: “money.” Turns out Robert was spotted at the scene where $8 million of mafia loot has gone missing, and may have been mistaken for an undercover cop involved in the scheme as well.
Robert does what he can to stay warm — his resourcefulness at times recalls Robert Reford’s character in “All Is Lost” — which provides the film with sporadic surprises, but the introduction of a deadly female mobster (Yuliya Snigir) brings things to a screeching halt. While McDermott is quick enough with words to provide a few cheap laughs at various Russian stereotypes, these conversations rarely add depth to the characters or raise the stakes of the situation. The film only ratchets up its intensity through nonsensical twists and gratuitous violence. By the time “Freezer” goes for broke by adding an unfairly unpredictable plot twist, the film has lost all credibility. The final act makes little sense both logically and emotionally; screenwriters Tom Doganoglu and Shane Wiesfeld certainly pull the rug from under the audience, but it comes off as little more than a cheap trick in a film that offers little else in terms of narrative depth.
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Salomon may have chosen a single room to work with, but he and d.p. John Dyer do little to add to the tension, often going for bland compositions reminiscent of television coverage. A singular space is a perfect place to plant visual information to set up later narrative payoffs, but Salomon prefers generic, ominous shots. He occasionally chooses a trick shot, like an intense handheld p.o.v. shot during one particularly violent encounter, but like much of the film, it feels more gimmicky than truly inventive.
Stronger production values could have made the freezer itself feel more specific. David C. Williams’ score is a series of ominous tones that becomes quite tedious.