There is an old proverb which claims that revenge is a meal that is best served cold. Well, revenge does not get any colder than in “Freeze Me,” the new thriller from Japanese director Takashi Ishii. Unfortunately, a miscast central performance prematurely thaws the film from reaching its full chill.
In “Freeze Me,” the main focus is on Chihiro, a young lady in Tokyo who is about to be married to a co-worker in a large office. However, Chihiro has a dark and tragic secret: years ago in her hometown, she was raped by three men who videotaped the assault. Chihiro’s new life is shattered when one of her attackers finds her and forces his way into her apartment. He confronts her with the videotape of the rape and photographs taken from the video which show the attack in graphic detail. The rapist contacts the other two attackers regarding Chihiro’s whereabouts. However, Chihiro plans revenge on her tormentors by killing them one-by-one and hiding their bodies in an industrial meat freezer she purchases for her apartment. And while Chihiro tries to get away with this plan, the energy drain created by the meat freezer creates a power shortage that brings melts away the evil secret of her frozen past.
“Freeze Me” is an unpleasant movie, to be certain, and the level of sadism displayed on-screen is fairly intense even by the no-holds-barred standards of Japanese cinema. Unlike American films that pull punches and sugar coat their dread with phony optimism, “Freeze Me” is grim and gritty to the point that some viewers will have difficulty staying with the film. Director Ishii, whose 1995 masterpiece “Gonin” was strangely underappreciated in its U.S. release, keeps the pace at a brisk speed that well-serves a story that grows more suffocating with each new plot twist. Yasushi Sakakibara’s moody cinematography and Goro Yasukawa’s eerie score enhance the chilling storyline to its fullest.
Unfortunately, “Freeze Me” slips badly in the centrally miscast presence of Harumi Inoue as Chihiro. She is identified in the film’s press kit as a model and “television personality”…but no reference to acting can be found in the press kit, let alone the screen. Although she possesses an undeniable beauty, she never registers the proper emotions to reflect her character’s wild mood swings from the depths of despair to the heights of revenge. At times, she seems genuinely clueless and adrift on the screen, unable to connect with her fellow actors or the intricacies of the plot. Due to the limitations of her acting, Ms. Inoue often comes across as an island unto herself and her weak performance melts away much of the impact that “Freeze Me” should have carried. With a stronger actress who could have been in greater command of the character, “Freeze Me” would have been a cold-hearted masterpiece rather than the okay thriller it turned out.