So once again we have survived.

One in the Chamber

William Kaufman is one of the elite few DTV directors whose names I remember in a positive way. So far he’s not an identifiable master of a style like Hyams or Florentine, and doesn’t have as many under his belt as Roel Reine, but he’s done enough that I keep an eye out. THE HIT LIST is a real solid Larry Cohen-esque high concept thriller that could’ve been a theatrical release if it starred somebody more theatrical-release friendly than Cole Hauser. SINNERS AND SAINTS is messier but earnest and with some distinctive touches. Both have a little bit of a political subtext that hints at an authortational type voice.

ONE IN THE CHAMBER is Kaufman’s newest, and has his best cast so far, by which I mean Dolph Lundgren is in it. Unfortunately I don’t think this one is really a step forward. Story-wise it’s more direct than SAINTS AND SINNERS, but not nearly as clever or gripping as HIT LIST. It’s about a war between Russian crime families (never really a good subject for a DTV movie) in Prague. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Ray Carver, not the author of Short Cuts (I don’t think) but an elite killer who’s hired to off some guys but fails to shoot one because the guy uses a woman as a shield and Carver has human feelings, etc., so that gets him fired. His replacement is Aleksey the Wolf, played by Dolph. He’s not in the first 25 minutes of the movie, but as soon as he shows up he steals the whole thing.

Gooding has played a hitman in HIT LIST, SHADOWBOXER, WRONG TURN AT TAHOE and probly others. I like him in all these roles, but this one’s a little more generic. It’s the ol’ “following around a woman because he feels guilty that he killed her family so he wants to protect her but then he meets her and is afraid she’s gonna find out the truth” bit. But I do like his vulnerability when he starts talking to her. And I noticed at the beginning his alarm goes off at 6:57 am. What kind of a man sets his alarm for 6:57? Why not 7:00? Why not 6:55? Does this suggest a man who has always precisely planned for how much time he will need to do anything, whether sniping somebody or eating his morning bagel? I don’t know.

Gooding’s okay but Dolph’s character is more fun. He wears loud Hawaiian shirts, white pants, a hat, drives a convertible, brings a dog with him everywhere. He smokes, which is funny to me having recently watched the Dolph Lundgren: Maximum Potential workout video (check my column in CLiNT Magazine for details). In that video he goes on for a while about his healthy eating, and it does not sound like a man who would ever smoke. But he knows it looks cool, so he goes for it in this movie. It’s right for the character. Someone says “he looked like Frank Sinatra on steroids.”

His fighting style is cool. He lets his opponents flail around, but catches their punches, then crushes them with fewer moves. He’s bigger and stronger but also more economical with his blows. When he shoots a gun he’s casual about it, the gun held loosely and close to his body, still hitting everybody between the eyes. His fights with Gooding are well done, although I’m still not entirely convinced Gooding could beat him.

Ray’s traumatic past is hinted at in a low-rent version of the SEVEN opening credits. Headlines, Bibles, images of a little girl. But the glimpses of the Wolf’s personality are better. He says he restores cars from the ’70s and pinball machines from the ’90s. (I was hoping he’d see the pinball machine in the girl’s restaurant, but he doesn’t. It looks ’80s anyway, so maybe he wouldn’t have the right parts.)

He’s also funny about his dog. When he realizes that there are gunmen sneaking up on him he calmly puts his dog in a cabinet and says “Sorry about this.” He brings it into clubs. When a security guard tries to block his way into a private club he hands the guy the leash and walks right past him.

Alot of this is as generic as you’d probly expect. They got those horrible freeze-frames introducing the heads of the different families by name. Of course they annoyed me without managing to make me remember who any of them were. One of these days somebody’s gotta figure out that they should create characters that stand out from each other and put them into scenes that reveal who they are instead of showing us flash cards.

I think there are 3 scenes where sex or kissing is interrupted by a phone call that the man says he has to take.

But I do enjoy the rivalry between Cuba and Dolph and the way their relationship is resolved. It also sets up for what could be a fun sequel, something you actually don’t see too much in DTV. There are surprisingly few sequels in the world of DTV, other than WRONG TURNs.

I enjoyed it pretty good. It’s an above average DTV movie, but mostly it’s more evidence for the Dolph Lundgren Is Underappreciated file.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012 at 3:16 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

9 Responses to “One in the Chamber”

  1. Dolph is always more interesting the more Eastern European his character is. And judging by the tattoo on his back in this movie Aleksei’s a full blown old fashioned Soviet communist. Interesting choice, I think.

    Vern, my alarm clock’s set at 4:53. 4:55’s too late and 4:50 would deprive me of three whole minutes of sleep. I usually sleep only 4 or 5 hours per night anyway, so I need those three minutes, man.

  2. This one was pretty dull and unengaging pretty much every second that Dolph isn’t onscreen, excepting a few decent action beats with Gooding. Oh, and the part I’m surprised you didn’t bring up, Vern, because it’s right up your alley, where Gooding’s handler has been forced to set him up, and Gooding slips him a piece and the handler goes, “Thank you.” Like he knows he’s probably gonna die here, but he’s grateful that Cuba has given him the chance to do it with some honor. I liked that bit. Gave the hint of something real bubbling below the surface of the cliches, something I didn’t get from the rest of the movie. Or Kaufman’s other movies, for that matter, which are definitely above average for DTV but still feel phony, without being heightened enough to make that seem cool.

    But yeah, when Dolph’s onscreen, it works. Is there anybody else on earth who so perfectly combines the qualities of an action star, a grotesque villain, and a comic relief character actor? The guy’s a one-of-a-kind.

    I will say that it was one of those movies where the very end is so good (RIDDICK: THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK is the classic example) where you didn’t like the movie but you’d still watch the sequel. They should have ditched all that 12th-generation THE KILLER bullshit with the girl (“I know you killed my parents but you saved me from the hostage situation you got me into so I guess all this emotional music on the score has been earned.”) and just had it about two rival hitmen who fight for the first half of the movie and then team up for the second half. That’s the kind of shit you figure out when you do a second draft of the script before shooting starts.

  3. Movie was average and generic, but yeah, Dolph is a blast.

    Also, I’m into knives and blades, and I absolutely loved the knife he carried in the movie, to the point that I browsed through the net to find out what it was. Turned out it was the Cold Steel Rajah 1, which is a)no longer made, and b)incredibly expensive(like, it was in the $200 range when it was still in production, much higher now). So while I couldn’t get that exact knife, I DID get the Rajah 2, which is almost the same knife(same size, same shape and design, but with a completely polymer handle instead of polymer with steel bolsters, and with a plain finish instead of the satin finish on Rajah 1), but was much more affordable at $85. It’s an absolutely awesome knife, and one of my favorites.

  4. Hey DKS, I hope you don’t lead off with “I’m into knives and blades” when you talk to the ladies.

    I’ve always liked Dolph. He’s so funny and personable in interviews and I think he’s got good comic timing. It’s a shame he’s always been typecast as a Russian heavy. Say what you will about THE EXPENDABLES, at he played a Swede in those.

    Does Cuba Gooding Jr. owe some back taxes or something? Why is he in so many DTV movies?

  5. What’s weird about Dolph is how incredibly unconfident he seems in those group interview / panel situations. He’s fine on his own, but when you see him up there with Sly, Arnie and Statham he’s quiet and dejected … as if he feels inferior up there next to the bigger stars.

    You really shouldn’t feel that way Dolph. Not only do you have a greater physicality than those insects, you are a genuine bad-ass Karate champion, a Rocket Scientist (or whatever), a decent film director and Ivan Drako. Those other guys ain’t got shit on you (except perhaps Sly … he’s pretty smart and talented and Rocky and Rambo … damn I just ruined my argument).

  6. We should make a list of former top tier actors who now would absolutely never turn down a DTV movie. The actors who you wonder if they have a private life since they never seem to be not working.

    Off the top of my head, Cuba Gooding Jr is one. Christian Slater has no less than 13 movies listed in IMDB that came out in 2012.

    Also, why is it that Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis seem to be in every movie being released in the last couple years? Both their rates of production have dramatically increased compared to before.

  7. you’ve got to love how Cuba has become whole cloth a DTV guy, I guess Radio really fucked his theatrical career eh? but as we all know there’s no shame in it

    anyway, pinball machines from the ’90s? that’s pretty random, why not pinball machines from any era? does that mean he only restores ones like this?

    actually, I change my mind, I can understand why

  8. On Cuba Gooding’s “theatrical career” :

    Part of what makes this production so fine is the unanimity with which Ms. Tyson’s colleagues support her magnificent performance. Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays her frustrated son, is exquisitely right, holding back his emotions until the climactic speech in which he opens his heart at last.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324874204578440540234119324.html

    Dude’s doing pretty well for himself, and I’m hoping to go see him perform on Broadway soon.

  9. Saw this and there’s fun to be had.

    Nothing amazing but always nice to see Dolph Europeanin’ it up, and the Proto-Wick elements were nice to see.

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