It’s surprising how Dolph Lundgren, best known for being Ivan Drago in Rocky IV twenty-six years ago and being in a lot of (mostly) crappy direct-to-video 80s and 90s movies, is having a career resurgence in his fifties. Not only is Lundgren a member of the action all-stars The Expendables (with the soon-to-be released sequel coming soon), he’ll be starring alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme in another Universal Soldier movie later this year. He’s also still in terrific shape. But he’s still making direct-to-video action films, like One in the Chamber. In this one he’s paired with Cuba Gooding, Jr., who unlike Lundgren has seen better days.
The Film: The good news is, Lundgren is phenomenal as the impeccably dressed, wisecracking assassin Aleksey “The Wolf” Andreev. With no exaggeration, it might be his best-acted role in his career. With that said, Lundgren isn’t the whole movie, and all the passion, presence, and humor that he brings to the role simply isn’t matched by Gooding. In fact, the character Gooding plays — a Prague-based American assassin named Ray Carver — is as a whole less interesting and less fun than Lundgren’s Andreev. Carver is a conflicted assassin, the kind that quotes Bible verses and wonders if he should still be in the game. He is also harboring a strange obsession with Janice (Claudia Bassols), which appears to be a bit less creepy once we discover why he’s so obsessed with her (though it’s still creepy). Carver and Andreev’s paths cross when they are hired by opposing sides in a Russian mafia war to take out the members of the opposing family. Naturally the two soon find themselves targeting each other.
It’s a fairly pedestrian plot from screenwriters Derek Colstad and Benjamin Shahrabani, but director William Kaufman (who previously directed Gooding in The Hit List) can certainly direct some strong action sequences and great character moments with Lundgren. While the dual assassins bit is integral to the plot, I found myself wanting to know more about Andreev than Carver even though the movie focuses on the latter. In fact, hand costume designer Ana Ioneci an Oscar now: Lundgren’s wardrobe, which mostly consists of white pants, a funky print shirt, a straw fedora, and white shit-kicker cowboy boots is perhaps the coolest looking ass-kicker gear I’ve seen in a film in a long time. And whoever designed Andreev’s back tattoo of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin is a true artist.
See? How cool does this guy look?
I’ve seen quite a few direct-to-video action flicks during my time here at Movie Buzzers, and honestly One in the Chamber is one of the better ones. It features quality acting (a standout is Billy Murray as Carver’s boss, Leo), a plot that actually makes sense, and well-choreographed action scenes. The big problem is that the movie focuses on the wrong character, since Andreev’s slick approach to his hired killing is more entertaining than Carver’s conflicted character arc.
The Extra: No, I didn’t forget the “s”, since this disc only comes with one special feature, a nine-minute “Making of” feature that contains very brief clips of Lundgren and Gooding talking about the movie and a lot of clips of the scenes being shot without any sort of narration. I guess it’s sort of like being the caterer on the set, since you can see everything being shot but in an over-the-shoulder kind of way. By the way, the Blu-ray and the DVD are exactly the same since they both have this feature.
Movie Rating: A decent assassin vs. assassin flick, unremarkable except for Lundgren’s coolness (5/10).
Disc Rating: If you want to know about the production of this movie, you’ll have to look elsewhere (3/10).
One in the Chamber will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 21 from Image Entertainment