With the COVID-19 outbreak keeping people at home, many poker players have been looking for ways to entertain themselves. One way of doing that is through movies about the game and there are plenty out there to choose from. One of those is a hugely underrated classic from the mid-Aughts called Freeze Out, which has recently seen its premiere (for free!) on the streaming site Vimeo.
Writer/Director Would “Certainly” Entertain a Sequel
In a recent conversation with Poker News Daily, M. J. Loheed, the writer/director of Freeze Out, looked back at the 2005 film fondly. “The characters in the film were loosely based on real experiences that I went through and traits my friends had at the time. I really tried to make them complex people, as I was into Curb Your Enthusiasm at the time and wondered what you could do if the characters went a little deeper.”
When asked if he had entertained the thought of revisiting the subject matter of poker and the characters from Freeze Out, Loheed was very enthusiastic about it. “When I did Freeze Out, I wanted to do a movie that appealed to both people who played and didn’t play poker. I would definitely write a sequel for those characters, but I think it would be better adapted to a television series like Community, where the poker game is a hub in the story. Although the end of Freeze Out is pretty definitive…”John” never hosts another game!”
What Happens When It’s All on the Line?
Freeze Out was released at the start of 2006 as an independent film. It was roundly hailed after its completion the previous year at several film festivals, including the 2005 Westwood International Film Festival (where it received the “Best Feature Film” award) and was a part of other online festivals. In the film, Loheed took fans into the world of the home game but brought in a twist that made the movie a truly dramatic and realistic experience.
Freeze Out centers on the home game that John (Tom Sharpe) operates as a form of entertainment for his friends. John’s ex-girlfriend Sarah (Laura Silverman, the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman and known for her own comedic chops on Curb Your Enthusiasm and the animated cartoon Dr. Katz) is a part of the game, along with Nick (stand up comedian Greg Behrendt) and a few others. They get together for many of the same reasons that most home games are started – a way to pass a few hours, have a few drinks, bust on each other and play a small stakes game of poker.
John, however, is not pleased with how he is treated in the group and makes his stand with a bold suggestion: instead of the usual small stakes cash game, John challenges the group to a winner-take-all Dealer’s Choice tournament. Instead of putting $5 or $10 into the mix for the penny-ante game, John sets the buy-in for the tournament at $100, far higher stakes than the group is used to playing. The group agrees to the game, which brings to the fore the back stories of the players involved in the game as the stress and intensity of the tournament increases.
As the tournament plays out, it is revealed that Nick has a massive drug issue that is wrecking his life. Another player in the game, Tim (Eddie Pepitone), is being evicted from him home. John also gets a rude awakening; Sarah has hooked up with one of the other players in the game. These revelations influence the way the tournament plays out, to a surprising finish and an even more surprising epilogue.
Loheed demonstrates an excellent knowledge of poker throughout the film, showing how John breaks down his opposition and the fact that true poker players do NOT play “wild card” games. In fact, Loheed admitted to this writer years ago that he funded the filming of Freeze Out through his poker play. But he doesn’t get too deep in the woods with this poker knowledge, which is how he made it palatable for both poker fans and the casual viewer.
If you’ve gone through the usual suspects when it comes to poker entertainment, the film Freeze Out should be something on your list. Head over to Vimeo to check it out and look back on one of the most underrated poker films in the genre’s history.