In many ways, FREEZER is exactly what you’d expect out of the title and thriller genre, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing.
Thankfully, it doesn’t waste any time. Like star Dylan McDermott, we’re thrust into the meat locker right along with him from the first shot, as Robert Saunders wakes up, zip-tied, with a bag over his head. His birthday dinner with his girlfriend was rudely interrupted, and he has no idea why (“I’m just a mechanic!”). Of course, Robert manages to escape his bonds in moments, proving that he’s resourceful and maybe not a victim. That’s when the Russians come in, to pound, threaten, interrogate and guess at what each other are saying. The Russian mobsters are convinced Robert has stolen $8 million of their money, and will kill him to find it.
Along the way, the two Russian heavies (Stepan and “Conan”) are joined by the sexy femme fatale type Alisa (Yuliya Snigir) in order to expedite the interrogation. Even at a lean and brisk 82 minute running time, you’ll grow impatient at how long the two sides stay at a stalemate (“I didn’t steal your money.” “Where is the money?” rinse, repeat). But, McDermott is given just enough to do, and his smart-ass sarcasm lifts many mediocre lines.
Maybe because it’s impossible to ever trust Dylan McDermott’s characters, since he’s so damn smarmy and dickish, even when we’re supposed to feel bad about him, but you never believe he’s completely innocent of his situation. Did he steal the money? Does he know more than he’s letting on? Are the Russians just grabbing everybody and asking questions later (it seems like it)? Are they completely incompetent? How long does it take a cop to trace a phone call? Where is Robert’s “girlfriend”? It’s not a spoiler to say that there is more to Robert Saunders than he lets on, or else this film would be super boring and pointless, and for the most part, it’s a fairly mindless enjoyable journey to get to the “twist,” though there are several. You’ll groan at Robert’s constant jokes at the expense of the Russians and their language (“Como se dice I’m freezing my balls off and want to get the #@^$ out of here” is a winner), until you’re just as frustrated as he is by the language barrier (or is there one?). There’s a point where Robert asks for a phone, and Alisa has to translate, by saying “telephone” to her comrade. Ohhhh.
Soon, Robert finds out that he’s not exactly alone in the meat locker, as another man suspected of stealing the money clings to life. But can the newcomer be trusted (um, no)? FREEZER is one of those flicks where NO ONE CAN BE TRUSTED™ and the narrative flip-flops throughout in an attempt to make the endgame seem more surprising than it really is. There are cops, dirty ones, and an ever-expanding roster of Russian mobsters, all intent on finding the money, and letting Robert Saunders freeze to death. While it’s all jumbled, as the filmmakers posit general confusion as characters’ shifting loyalties and motivations, the wacky helps to avoid thawing the tension. The central conceit, while simple, is a good and effective one, and Dylan McDermott is just entertaining enough to elevate the proceedings into an enjoyable thriller that won’t give you freezer burn.