One in the Chamber (2012) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Ever since the release of The Expendables it has become en vogue to match up multiple headliners on the same marquee billing. One in the Chamber is probably going to be most remembered for showcasing the paring of Dolph Lundgren and Cuba Gooding Jr. The fact that the film itself is not the sum of its parts is a disappointment. But that is not to say there is not a lot to like about this melancholy thriller that reunites Gooding Jr. with director William Kaufman. Two feuding Russian mafia families have gone to war over a trivial business matter. After three years of peace between the clans blood is being spilt again, in large part due to professional hit-man Ray Carver, (Gooding Jr.) brought in to take out the leaders of the rival gang. During the ensuing attempt one target gets away, forcing the mafia chief to call in a second assassin, Aleksey Andreev (Dolph Lundgren), to finish the job. At this point the plot begins to zig and zag as shifting loyalties and alliances continue to evolve. One in the Chamber is not a great film and it certainly doesn’t rank with some of the better work from either of its stars, but it is a brutishly, brooding thriller with a classy score and an under current of mischievous humor.

I admired William Kaufman’s previous collaboration with star Cuba Gooding Jr., The Hit List. Kaufman brings a relaxed style that doesn’t rely on a perpetually moving handheld camera and there is a minimum of over editing. The over use of cutaways and flash frame inserts are a cheap trick that has marred the genre for the last decade. Here the narrative is delivered in a crisp, visually effective, straight forward manner and Kaufman stages action scenes with flair. Although the two encounters between the paid killers are under whelming and at times comes off as little more than Spy vs.Spy level theatrics and violence.

Cuba Gooding adequate here, but his character is underwritten and saddled with an uninteresting obsession for a mysterious woman, he feels compelled to protect. As played by Gooding Jr. Carver is a somber offbeat man with the demeanor of Travis Brickel. Louis Mandylor appears as a mobster looking as if he has morphed into a Mickey Rourke, if he got lost in the Jersey Shore. Sure he is playing a Russian here but he is a Soviet by way of Atlantic City. Dolph Lundgren steals the show and every scene he is in, with his eccentric scenery chewing portrayal of the Russian killer known as the ‘Wolf’. Dolph’s best moment comes when a bouncer asks for his name to gain admittance into a club, Aleksey head butts the guard, “Fuck you, that’s who,” he states, not before dropping a perfectly timed, “much obliged”. It’s a great moment in a quirky performance from Lundgren. He chooses to play his character as a Sinatra loving, 1950s-esque gentleman giant with a fetish for fedoras and dressing like a tourist. It is a peculiar acting ‘choice,’ but it also brings the energy and humor that is lacking in other aspects of this unremarkable movie. There is a scene in which Alexa meets with his employers and bluntly slates he “does not think he simply does,” and we learn that he is a man who “plays chess in the park, restores cars from the 1970s, pinball machines from the 1990, and if the price is right, will kill anything that breathes.” However there are boundaries; for instance, he will not kill children, and women must only be shot, a knife is too personal for a female he reckons. Another interesting moment is when after taking out an entire room of under bosses, Aleksey looks at the lone survivor and quizzically asks, “It was a thing of beauty, no?”. Here we have a unique character, a man that feels no inner turmoil over his actions, much to the juxtaposition of Ray Carver, who has been harboring a dark secret for too long.

One in the Chamber is an enjoyable time-waster, but in today’s hyper competitive direct-to-DVD market there is very little to distinguish it from other similar products. The main reason to see this meaty, action flick is for the inspired performance from the always watchable Dolph Lundgren, who appears startlingly fit. I guess I was expecting something a little more from the epic, (on paper), casting of two titans of the genre. Instead we are left with the same old elements that make up a mafia thriller with little of the bite or originality of something as plagued as 1995s Assassins.

Director: William Kaufman
Stars: Dolph Lundgren, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Mandylor

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