One in the Chamber (2012)
By: Craig Villinger on August 4, 2013 | Comments
Anchor Bay | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 | 91 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: William Kaufman
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Mandylor, Leo Gregory, Claudia Bassols
Screenplay: Derek Kolstad, Benjamin Shahrabani
Country: USA
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With his Academy Award winning performance in Jerry Maguire now a distant memory Cuba Gooding Jr. finds himself saying "Show me the money!" to a string of direct-to-video action movie producers these days. Over the past decade he has starred in a mediocre assortment of B-grade offerings that have never threatened to earn him the title of "action hero", and since Cuba's solo efforts have been lacking the makers of this flick wisely called for back-up in the form of old-school action veteran Dolph Lundgren, with the two stars going head-to-head as rival assassins in the employ of bickering Russian Mafia syndicates.

Self described "Fixer" Ray Carver (Gooding Jr.) is a freelance gun-for-hire who makes a tidy living in Eastern Europe thanks to the region's flourishing post-communist organised crime scene. For his latest gig Carver is hired by the Suverov crime family to take out their arch rivals the Tavanian crime family after an uneasy truce between the factions breaks down, but his long range sniper rifle rampage misses one important target – Tavanian underboss Demyan Ivanov (Louis Mandylor). Naturally the Suverov's are unimpressed with Carver's inadequate performance, and to ensure the job is finished cleanly they bring in famed Russian assassin Aleksey "The Wolf" Andreev (Lundgren) to eliminate the remaining Tavanian crime family members. Now out of work and in the Suverov's bad books Carver makes the logical choice to switch allegiances and work for the Tavanian's, and with Carver and "The Wolf" actively targeting each others employers it's only a matter of time before their paths collide and we witness the inevitable Cuba vs. Dolph showdown.

The latest in what appears to be a never ending stream of B-grade American action movies to be shot on the cheap in Eastern Europe, One in the Chamber is built around a simple "man vs man" premises that leaves plenty of room for bloody mayhem, but what we get is a series of lazily paced scenes where Eastern European bad guys throw around bad dialogue in a lot of distinctly Eastern European locations, with the yakety-yak occasionally interrupted by perfunctory gun and/or first fights.

Director William Kaufman showed a considerable flair for gunplay in his gritty 2010 thriller Sinners and Saints yet he doesn't appear to have been given the time or the resources to orchestrate a similar level of ballistic carnage here, and most of One in the Chamber's action scenes are over before you've had a chance to reach into the tub for a second handful of popcorn. The brief action sequences fire-up at regular intervals but Dolph Lundgren's handsome mug on the cover implies a certain level of quality in the action department that One in the Chamber is not able to deliver. Even the essential Lundgren vs Cuba confrontation – which you'd think they'd pull out all the stops for – is a restrained affair, taking place in a cramped apartment and featuring only one spinning roundhouse kick to the head before reaching an underwhelming conclusion.

One can not blame Dolph for any of the film's deficiencies however as he's clearly relishing his villainous turn, adding a much needed shot of levity to what is by and large a straight-faced action piece. Usually seen wearing a tacky shirt and fedora, Lundgren all but winks at the camera as he rolls out cheesy lines like "I restore cars from the 70s, pinball machines from the 90s, and if you pay me enough I'll probably kill anything that breathes" with a slightly tweaked accent. He beats-up or kills virtually every character he shares the frame with, he smokes, he drinks, he lays the "hard as nails" shtick on with a trowel, and at one point he blazes away "John Woo Style" while wearing nothing but a bath towel!

While Dolph effortlessly steals the show he is unfortunately the second fiddle to Cuba Gooding Jr. in this story, and as the central narrative focus Cuba's character is a terminal bore. As assassins they are both effectively playing "bad guys", but while Lundgren is a comic book style caricature who revels in his love of murder and mayhem, Gooding Jr. plays the brooding, troubled assassin who quotes bible verses and follows an ethical code that prohibits him from killing women or children. Essentially Cuba's character assumes the role of "good guy" by default, simply because he appears to have a conscience. He even dotes on a spunky cafe owner (with whom he shares a mysterious and tragic back-story) in a "doomed romance" sub-plot that feels like a blatant attempt to add substance to a hollow character.

In the hands of a lesser director things could've been worse. His previous work suggests William Kaufman is a technically competent filmmaker, and his ability to scrape together a collection of passably slick scenes under trying conditions saves One in the Chamber from being a total write-off. Still, most viewers will find potential enjoyment hindered by a formulaic plot, underdeveloped characters who spend too much time talking and not enough shooting up the screen, and the general cut price stench that wafts through most of these Eastern European lensed cheapies.

Mostly though, you also can't avoid the fact that it's a Cuba Gooding Jr. film with a dash Dolph Lundgren, when it really needed to be a Dolph Lundgren film with a dash Cuba Gooding Jr. Lundgren is the obvious highlight but he's just not given enough screen time to make One in the Chamber anything more than an ordinary action/thriller.
The Disc
The AVC encoded 1.78:1 transfer is remarkably sharp, with rich, vibrant colours and not a single flaw from start to finish. For a relatively cheap B-movie One in the Chamber has been given an outstanding HD presentation. Not so remarkable, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is front-heavy and does little to impress, with the rear speakers rarely engaged, even during the action sequences. The gunfire does at least pack a bass-heavy punch.

Clocking in at a brief 10 minutes and padded with too much footage from the movie, One in the Chamber: Behind the Scenes doesn't dive into the on-set nitty gritty, instead featuring a mix of raw on-set footage and quick interviews with Dolph and Cuba.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Oh the irony. Cuba Gooding Jr. may be the one with an Oscar on his shelf but it's Dolph Lundgren who steals the show, delivering a gleefully charismatic performance while his critically acclaimed co-star lumbers around like a morose plank. It's an above average film by Cuba Gooding Jr's recent standards, but with low key action set-pieces and an emphasis on its hackneyed plot One in the Chamber is a third tier Dolph Lundgren romp at best. Worth watching for die-hard fans of the Dolphinator, but they may want to fast forward though the bits where he's not on screen.
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