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Blu-Ray Review: One in the Chamber

'Cuba Gooding Jr. and Dolph Lundgren having knife fights and mowing down Czech Mafiosos with giant machine guns, which is kind of intrinsically rad.'

 

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Dolph Lundgren square off as opposing mafia toughs in One In the Chamber, currently available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The movie itself is a pretty standard, C-grade hit man outing, but I don’t care about that and neither do you, because it’s a movie about Cuba Gooding Jr. and Dolph Lundgren having knife fights and mowing down Czech Mafiosos with giant machine guns, which is kind of intrinsically rad, despite any real nuances of execution.

Gooding and Lundgren play an unassociated pair of freelance hit men living in Prague, both basically legendary within the annals of their profession and operating at the top of their respective games. After a rancorously botched business transaction decimates a long-standing truce between two competing mob families, brooding, frowny, perpetually voice-overing hit man Ray (Gooding) is called in to execute a retaliatory hit.

When the job goes awry, the surviving boss and his flunkies strike a deal with competing hit man Aleksey (Lundgren), whose record is as tight and flawless as Ray’s, but who wears loud, rakish Hawaiian shirts and has a huge tattoo on his back of Marx, Lenin and Stalin to indicate that he is a smooth and highly principled mofo who doesn’t take any guff from Fascist scumbags. When Ray and Aleksey’s competing employers decide to make life easier by bumping off each others’ operative hit men, Ray and Aleksey are forced to square off against each other in a series of scuffling confrontations that won’t end until one or both of them have kicked the metaphorical bucket.

As an actual movie, expected to meet specific criteria of plot structure and entertainment value, One in the Chamber is a fairly competent, hack job shoot-em-up. What causes it to rise above most similar genre installments, however, is that it contains scenes of Dolph Lundgren and Cuba Gooding Jr. shooting pistols at each other and attacking each other with six-inch hunting knives. Also, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character is pretty much the same as the extremely weird hit man character he played in Shadowboxer, so it’s fun to imagine him being that same person. The action sequences mostly involve automatic weapons, but there are a few relatively solid hand-to-hand sequences as well, if that’s more your bag. There’s a weird, belabored love story that felt distracting and forced, but that’s a pretty minor complaint overall.

There’s an extremely short behind-the-scenes featurette on the disc, including brief interview clips with Gooding and Lundgren, but sadly, that’s about it. The movie itself is watchable, though, and seriously, that knife fight scene was some pretty tasty business. Recommended, more or less.