"Freeze Frame" is certainly no bouncy salute to the J. Geils Band. It's a gritty, noir thriller that mixes Orwellian paranoia, allegory and a tabloid lust for brutal crimes to rail against the contemporary concerns of omnipresent media and intrusive government.
Reminiscent of "Memento" in its protagonist's obsessive-compulsive need for documentation, "Freeze Frame" casts British comedian Lee Evans ("There's Something About Mary") against type as a man once accused of a triple homicide and forever fixated on protecting himself against any attempts to frame him. Sweaty, twitching Sean Veil is so intent on providing himself a perpetual alibi that he videotapes himself constantly, meticulously dating and archiving the cassettes.
His dank, cavernous residence -- "home" is far too warm a term -- has cameras in every room. When he goes outside, Veil straps on a Steadicam-like harness with a camera erupting from his chest pointing back at him, chronicling his every move. He shaves himself clean, giving him the appearance of a large, worried thumb, to avoid shedding any DNA that might be used to entrap him.
Though the original homicide charges were dropped a decade before due to a meddling, overzealous true-crime author (Ian McNeice), Veil continues to be pursued with equal fervor for other crimes by a tubercular detective (Sean McGinley) and a impatient television reporter (Rachael Stirling, the daughter of Diana Rigg). Perhaps it isn't paranoia if everyone is actually out to get you.
Written and directed by John Simpson, "Freeze Frame" is stylish in its use of video technology both within and outside the film. Simpson and director of photography Mark Garret manage to place the audience well inside the disoriented, dystopian world inhabited by Veil. While the clammy character is difficult to warm up to, Evans' riveting performance gradually and uncomfortably allows us to empathize.
MPAA rating: R for strong violence, sexual content and language
Times guidelines: Brief glimpses of horrific imagery, a protracted rape scene
Lee Evans...Sean Veil
Rachael Stirling...Katie Carter
A First Look Pictures release. Writer-director John Simpson. Producer Michael Casey. Executive producer Martha O'Neill. Director of photography Mark Garret. Editor Simon Thorne. Music Debbie Wiseman. Production designer Ashleigh Jeffers. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
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