Reel Action: One in the Chamber, starring Dolph Lundgren and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4

Tagline: When killers collide, every bullet counts!

Directed by: William Kaufman
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Dolph Lundgren, Claudia Bassols, Billy Murray and Louis Mandylor.

THE PLAN: Two guns-for-hire get mixed up in a gang war in Prague. When one gets emotionally attached to an innocent woman caught in the middle, he finds that he's willing to do anything to save her.

THE KILL: I'm not quite sure what's up with Cuba Gooding Jr. nowadays. The former Oscar-winner is seriously slumming it in a series of direct-to-DVD movies, joining the ranks of Val Kilmer and Wesley Snipes. Perhaps he was booted out of Hollywood, maybe he just needs extra dough, but whatever it is, he doesn't seem like he's having much fun.

Gooding Jr. sleepwalks through ONE IN THE CHAMBER, an otherwise peppy action-thriller set in Prague. The story is a rather familiar one: Ray Carver (Cuba) is an elite assassin, willing to go wherever the money is. When a Russian gang led by Mikhail (Andrew Bicknell) decides to break its truce with a rival squad, they call in Ray to do the deed. However, Ray doesn't fully eliminate the crew (he does manage to blow most of the to smithereens), unable to kill the leader, Demyan (Louis Mandylor) because he uses a prostitute for a shield - and Ray won't go that low. (He's got a code, just like every other noble killer).

Never thought I'd see Dolph rockin' the cabana wear, but he pulls it off

Eventually, another assassin has been brought in to do the job Ray couldn't. Aleksey Andreev is a man they call "The Wolf," and he's a brutal murderer who is good with a knife and quick with a wise crack. He's played by Dolph Lungren, who is having fun and brightens up each scene he's in, balancing out that dour-faced bummer Gooding Jr.

ONE IN THE CHAMBER is essentially a series of scenes where either Ray or "The Wolf" stroll into a criminal lair and f*ck shit up. It's actually consistently easy for them to get into each gangster's hideout, so it's no wonder that the bosses want to hire outside help. Naturally, "The Wolf" is unsubtle in his job, bashing heads in, while Ray is a bit more smooth. The two face off in a few scenes, of course choosing hand-to-hand combat instead of using guns because, you know, that's what guys like this are supposed to do. They develop one of those "mutual respect" things even as they're trying to kill each other, culminating in a seriously unlikely bromance that (SPOILER ALERT) could pay off in a sequel or two.

What happens when Dolph doesn't like the haircut you just gave him...

As far as direct-to-DVD thrills are concerned, ONE IN THE CHAMBER isn't terrible; the production value is high, and the city of Bucherest provides a nice backdrop to the mayhem. Director William Kaufman keeps things simple, staging his sequences efficiently, although most of the action is relegated to shoot-outs.

It's Lundgren's show, and as mentioned before, he's a lot of fun to watch. Utilizing a Russian accent that dips in and out (we'll forgive him), Lundgren is more or less in the same mood he's in when playing the wacko Gunner character from THE EXPENDABLES; he obviously enjoys playing the loose cannon-type, not the straight-laced hero.

The same can't be said for Gooding Jr., who is just a bland screen presence now. Perhaps this is why he's out of legit work; the guy just can't muster up an ounce of the magnetism he once possessed. It's sort of sad, but what can you do.


TOP ACTION: There's a fun bit where Aleksey predicts the number of bullets he'll have to use when entering a sleazy gambling parlor. Unsurprisingly, he's dead-on after wasting the entire room.

TOP DEATH: Most people simply get shot in the face in ONE IN THE CHAMBER, so there aren't any truly memorable kills, unfortunately.

TOP DIALOGUE: Aleksey: "Who are you?" Ray: "The bad guy." Aleksey: "That's funny, I thought I was."

HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: There's a shot of Cuba straddling a shirtless Dolph that will definitely do it for anyone who has ever wanted to see that.

FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Ray gets a love interest in a rather lame subplot, but the chick is played by major cutie named Claudia Bassols, so it's all good.

DRINKING GAME: Drink every time Dolph's accent disappears. Make sure it's vodka, cuz that's what everyone else is drinking in this thing!

TRIVIA: Louis Mandylor, who plays one of the villains, is the brother of SAW baddie Costas Mandylor .

Director William Kaufman helmed another straight-to-DVD thriller with Cuba Gooding Jr. called THE HIT LIST.


Tags: reel action



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