Director: M.J Loheed
Cinematographer: Karen Korn
Editor: Tom Gould
Screenplay: M.J Loheed
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 95 min
Release Date: October 2, 2005
Tom Sharpe John
Laura Silverman Sarah
Greg Behrendt Nick
Kristopher Logan Chip
Eddie Pepitone Tim
Julie Thaxter- Gourlay Mary
Jim Kohn Ed
Lorielle New Janice
Freeze Out is based on a weekly home poker game that John (Tom Sharpe) and his seven friends play to entertain themselves. His friends include Sarah, Nick, Chip, Tim, Mary, Ed, and Janice. They are all struggling comedians and actors.
John participates in the poker game only to take his mind off his dull life in Los Angeles. While this temporarily escapes him from his boring lifestyle, he is always under constant teasing from his friends. This makes him feel agitated and insecure about himself. He starts training privately so as to stop their insults and better them in the game.
After some time in training, John suggests that they up their stakes from their usual $5 to $10 so a winner takes all $100 tournament. The group agrees into his idea not knowing that his intentions are to get back at those that criticized him. Considering the prize to be won, the game turns into a tense tournament.
It is during the tournament that Nick (Greg Behrendt) is revealed to be having a drug issue that is destroying his life. Tim (Eddie Pepitone) is thrown out of his home. Sarah, an ex-girlfriend to John, hooks up with one of the players and this does not go well with him. These turn of events affect how the game plays out. John not only manages to get the money, but he also gets his ego high after a spell of despise.
Director M.J Loheed perfectly illustrates his knowledge of the game in the film by showing how John expertly gets the better of his friends. It was revealed later by the debutant Loheed that he funded the film from his own poker winnings. The film is actually based on the writer’s true life in Los Angeles and that’s why the piece seems more palatable to both poker fans and casual viewers.
The title of the film is extracted from the poker term, “freeze out”, referring to a kind of tournament whereby you buy in, but you are prohibited from rebuying in after losing all of your funds. That relates to the weekly game of the characters in the film. John applies the same tactic to revenge the constant teasing from his friends. He achieves it by winning not only the big share, but also their respect within which they cannot buy back.
Loheed proves that you do not necessarily need popular casting to make a successful film. His choice of characters was spot on. These included young friends with a perfect knowledge of poker. They perfectly portray how desperate youths in Los Angeles are spending their time.
There is a unique balance of friendship, humor, and survival from all the characters. John’s friends think it is business as usual when he comes up with the mega tournament idea, but he ends up as the new hero. With most of his friends being comedians, you cannot underestimate their ability of picking up on him.
A poker table is used as the backdrop to the film. The producer portrays how a poker friendly game can turn out to be vindication to someone. John used the game as a let off to his ugly life but on the contrary, he ended up more depressed.
Based on the writers past of also being on the losing end before, he later made a fortune out of it. John’s fortunes might be smaller compared to his, but it proves a handful especially when he wins back their respect.
The dialogue in the film is brilliantly executed as the characters’ voices are a pure imitation to known people. The movie has a very good sense of humor, with awkward characters who are natural comedians cracking up jokes at ease. The dialogues are presented in a typical poker game night environment and with true emotions a viewer can empathize with.
The producer ensures that the film appeals to every viewer even those with little knowledge of poker. With the backdrop being a poker table, one would even feel a pro after watching the movie since all the events are unfolded clearly.
The film won a few accolades including the Best Feature Award and an official selection in the Cinequest Viewer’s Voice Festival and the 2005 Omaha film Festival. Unfortunately, the film was not picked up by any distributor leading to its unavailability in the market.
Many people who have watched this movie would second me for rating it in the very good zone at 7.8/10.