One in the Chamber

| August 21, 2012

Anchor Bay has released on Blu-ray and DVD One in the Chamber, an excellent B-actioner that just barely misses the A mark.  Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Ray Carver, an assassin hired by the Russian mafia to eliminate several high-profile targets on the opposite side of a gang war.  As he tries to complete his mission, Ray’s personal demons stemming from a past hit ultimately bring him to question whether or not the money he is paid for his skills allows the time spent in the gutter making it easier for the bad guys to profit from their illegal and immoral activities to make up for the poisoning of his soul.

As Ray begins to attack both sides, the bad guys are forced to bring in a second contract killer to clean up Ray’s mess and then take care of Ray.  The man they reach out to is the menacing Aleksey Andreev, a.k.a. The Wolf, played by the show-stopping Dolph Lundgren, who has been making a welcome comeback to the top of the action film food chain (including completely stealing the show in The Expendables 2).  Up until his arrival, the film is a rather turgid A Fistful of Dollars wannabe, but as soon as The Wolf arrives, things go more the way of For a Few Dollars More as the two assassins starting out on opposite sides find they have a lot more in common with each other than the filthy thugs whose bidding they have been doing for longer than either cares to admit.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about a direct-to-video crapfest or a big-budget studio blockbuster, the action film lives or dies based on the quality of its action, and the greatest compliment that can be paid to One in the Chamber is the way its action is more than worthy of comparison to its bigger-budget peers. Ray’s .50 cal assault on the Russians early in the film is an inspired opening sequence, while all of The Wolf’s set-pieces deserve enshrinement in the B-action Hall of Fame.

The side story involving Ray and Janice Knowles (Claudia Bassols), the woman “out of the past” directly related to his current pondering of a career change, is perfunctorily handled and rather unnecessary considering the charisma possessed by Lundgren and how much potential there was in expanding the film and focusing on an adversarial relationship like the one between Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in For a Few Dollars More or even between Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas in Assassins.

Even with how (comparatively) brief the storyline is pitting Ray against The Wolf, it delivers and then some, contributing to the film’s overall quality level.  The fight scene between Ray and The Wolf is an exceptionally well-choreographed and well-performed sequence, while their parting scene takes the action cliches they withstood and turns them on their head in a thoroughly satisfying fashion, providing a clever close to an admirably well-made film.

From adrenaline-fueled shootouts to bone-crunching fight scenes, One in the Chamber has more than enough ammunition for even the most hardcore of action fans.

About the Author:

Kyle Barrowman is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at Columbia College in Chicago. In addition to his work for Film Monthly, he has previously published essays for Cashiers du Cinemart, Offscreen, and The International Journal of Žižek Studies, on subjects ranging from film noir to Alfred Hitchcock, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Lee.
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