Happy Birthday Robert Saunders! Now give me my money or die.
Robert Saunders (Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story) is spending his birthday locked away in a freezer with his hands and feet bound; a gift from the Russian mob who thinks Robert stole millions of dollars from them. Robert knows he’s a dead man regardless of whether or not he took the loot, so he must find a way to escape captivity or his deep freeze prison will end up being his arctic coffin.
I am in a bit of a quandary about the Dylan McDermott film Freezer. McDermott’s performance is wonderful, as it usually is, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a tall drink of water, but you never quite believe his character is in danger or that he didn’t take the money. Why? Because it’s hard to imagine an innocent man, kidnapped by Russians, would be able to keep such a calm and cool demeanor. McDermott’s humorous quips and comedic timing plays well against the very serious situation his character is in, but it’s also the reason why Freezer doesn’t quite stick the landing.
I don’t know about you, but if someone threw me into a locked freezer, tied me up, and threatened to kill me for money I didn’t steal, I’d pretty much crap my pants — not crack jokes. Robert never even blinks, in fact he makes light of his situation, taunting his captors as if this kind of thing happens to him fairly regularly. Robert never seems like a man in fear for his life, so when the reveal comes, it’s not as surprising or exciting as it could’ve been otherwise.
Having said that, Freezer is still a pretty good flick thanks to director Mikael Salomon, who does a great job of keeping focus and interest in Robert’s plight by filming the entire movie in one confined space. That in and of itself creates enough tension and disorientation to keep the viewer engaged. I kept asking myself, what’s on the outside of the freezer? Will Robert die in there? Is he still in America? And who is the mysterious stranger Robert finds shot and left for dead in the ice box? One question I didn’t ask myself was if Robert stole the money. I knew he did, and that almost ruins things for me.
Almost, but not quite, thanks to the fine performance by McDermott and the rest of the supporting cast that includes Peter Facinelli (Twilight) who has a small role as the injured man in the freezer, shot by the Russians after he betrays them. I particularly enjoyed Milan Milisic as Stepan, one of the Russian thugs. His tough guy façade breaks easily when the situation begins to spiral out of control. Milisic’s bio says he was born in Toronto to a Siberian mother and father, but you would never know it from his spot on performance, which belies the fact that his natural speaking voice has no trace of his parent’s native tongue. His partner in crime is the thick necked Kiril (Andrey Ivchenko), the brawn to Stepan’s brains. Ivchenko looks like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, but is easily a much better actor. The beasts are joined by the beauty that is Alisa (Yuliya Snigir, A Good Day to Die Hard), the girlfriend of the mob bosses son. Alisa is just as ruthless as her male counterparts, and hides an ulterior motive that could get her killed alongside Robert.
There’s plenty of mystery and excitement throughout Freezer thanks to script writers Tom Doganoglu and Shane Weisfeld, who include a little unexpected twist at the end that I really didn’t see coming. And even with the unnecessary side story about crooked cops, and an ending that feels cheap and easy, better suited for a TV movie of the week than a major motion picture; I still think there are far more pros than cons to this nice little action/ thriller.
Freezer (Blu-ray) is a 2.40:1/1080p presentation, and considering it takes place in a walk-in freezer, the images and colors are crisp and clear. The TrueHD 5.1 Surround track makes the dialogue very easy to hear, and highlights the guttural Russian language that’s spoken throughout. Extras include interviews with Dylan McDermott, Peter Facinelli, and director Mikael Salomon. There’s a short and sweet behind the scenes featurette where we find out that the film was shot in an actual freezer, which explains why everyone looks as if they were really cold. Also included are DVD and digital copies of the film.
Freezer won’t go down in the annals of movie making as a groundbreaking film, but all films aren’t going to be classics. It entertains and tells an interesting story that makes the ambitious effort definitely worth your time.
A McDermotty Not Guilty.
2014, Anchor Bay, 82 minutes, R (2014)
VIDEO: 2.40:1 AUDIO: TrueHD 5.1 (English) SUBTITLES: Enlish (SDH), Spanish
EXTRAS: Interview, Featurettes, DVD Copy, Digital Copy ACCOMPLICES: IMDB