When the Eastern European filming locations that so many American productions use these days aren’t dressed up to look like New York (or wherever), and their true location is embraced, even a low-budget movie like this can have an interesting visual flavour. “One In The Chamber” is set and filmed in Prague, and the sense of the remnants of communism slowly crumbling while gaudy capitalism attempts to take root is everywhere.
Cuba Gooding Jr is a “fixer” for whichever crime family pays him the most money. He’s the stoic type, barely ever cracking a smile (perhaps thinking about his career would help with that); and inbetween jobs keeps his eye on a young woman who runs a small bar. She’s a plot device, being kidnapped towards the end, and it turns out Cuba killed her Dad when she was a kid, and he’s felt guilty about it ever since.
Anyway, he’s hired by one family to kill off their main rivals; he fails to completely wipe them out, so they bring in “The Wolf” (Dolph Lundgren, who clearly loved every minute of this), a wisecracking, Hawaiian-shirt-and-fedora-wearing assassin who’s so awesome his existence is only thought to be a myth. The two of them, after going for each other quite a bit, eventually figure out it might be smarter to work together, as it’s not like either of their employers is all that nice.
This is a good, solid, no-frills sort of thriller. We see our two stars kick a ton of ass, and while there’s nothing spectacular there’s a whole lot of great little scenes, like when The Wolf takes out the entire basement of an illegal betting shop. The atmosphere really sells this one, as the gangsters seem tired and miserable with their lot, neither good enough to be the hardcore Russian mob or stylish enough to be the Mafia. The futility of their pursuits hangs heavy over this movie.
Lundgren steals every scene he’s in, as a crazy person’s idea of what a “cool” assassin is like, and although it wouldn’t have made sense to have him as the star of the movie, he’s great throughout – I now want to see more of his recent output. Gooding’s fine too. It’s nice sometimes to not have anything particularly negative to say about a movie!
Hollywood has, in recent years, stolen the thunder of the Eastern European B-action movie industry. Movies like “John Wick” and “Taken” are pure B-movies with A-list talent and money, but it’s still fun at times to see what the rest of the world is up to. Director William Kaufman is building a decent career in this area, and I’m interested to see more of his movies now.
Rating: thumbs up