Every so often I get in the mood for a big dumb action movie. I’m not looking for Oscar-quality. Just give me solid fight choreography and practical stunt work, and I’m generally happy. Most of the current blockbuster action films rely a bit too much on CGI, and, let’s face it, we’re a bit short on action leads now.
Recently, though, I ran across THIS article on Den of Geek ranking the top 25 underappreciated films that went straight to DVD. Not surprisingly, most of them are action flicks. I put a few titles onto Ye Olde Netflix Queue, and the first selection has arrived.
Join me as we watch 2012’s One in the Chamber starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Dolph Lundgren and directed by William Kaufman.
Opening Credits – Ahh shaky 90s-style credits with a bunch of blurry images flashing by. I suppose we have Se7en to blame for this.
Yes, Cuba Gooding, Jr. is in this movie, but I will do my best to forget Snow Dogs…and Chill Factor…and Boat Trip.
Dolph is a great name. Adoph is not a great name. Dolph is just cool, though.
Bill Murray is in this thing? Oh wait. That’s Billy Murray.
And Louis Mandylor? Is this like one of those movies with Frank Stallone and Don Swayze? As a side note, did you know that Costas Mandylor played me in a movie once?
4:30 – Wow, Cuba’s opening voiceover is really monotone. Maybe he’s going for resigned or detached, but he comes across as the most bored mob “fixer” ever. And do we need multiple shots of him taking off his sunglasses and putting them away in a case? Is our attention being drawn to this for an important later plot point, or is it just bad directing/editing? Time will tell.
5:30 – Demyan Ivanov: Underboss of the Tavanian Crime Family has exited his vehicle. How do I know it’s him? Because the movie just did a freeze frame of his face and put his name up in giant letters. The Old West Instagram filter is a nice touch. Ok. Maybe not nice. But it’s a touch.
6:15 – We’ve had two more freeze frame intros in the last 45 seconds? Is the movie going to do this for everyone? And how come the last guy didn’t get the Old West filter? His was more 70s crime thriller.
6:45 – One problem with having a background in screenwriting is that bad dialogue causes me pain. Based on the three actual minutes of movie that we’ve had so far, I am going to be writhing in agony before this is over. Why did I want to do this again?
8:30 – The runtime of this movie is 91 minutes. I just spent an entire minute watching Cuba walk silently down a hallway. How much of this runtime is going to be filler? And do I mind? At least it means people aren’t speaking.
10:30 – Cuba finally shot someone! He’s got a high-powered sniper rifle, and he fired from a building at least a block away into the building where our now-dead target was standing. Now dead guy’s bodyguards have sprung into action, and they are firing indiscriminately out the window. At what? And even if they could see Cuba, they aren’t going to get anywhere near him with pistols. Is this just so they can claim they did something when their performance reviews come around? “The boss was killed on your watch.” “True, but we did return fire.”
14:00 – We can forget the performance reviews, since Cuba has picked these idiots off one by one. Our buddy Demyan is still alive, though.
16:00 – As Cuba has abandoned his backpack containing the sunglasses case, I’m guessing the answer to my previous question is bad directing/editing. Also, he’s awfully lucky that the four heavily armed men sent to find him decided to give him orders to turn around and didn’t immediately shoot him when he didn’t obey him.
16:30 – We’ve spent another 30 seconds watching Cuba walking. Oh wait. Voiceover! He just narrowly escaped being shot up by four guys with machine guns, but he still sounds bored.
17:30 – Shaky black and white flashback time! Cuba shot a guy who was reading a bible. And the guy’s young daughter walked in on him. Double Guilt Whammy! No wonder Cuba’s so scarred.
18:15 – Awww…Cuba kept the guy’s bible and now reads from it every morning.
19:30 – Now he’s stalking some woman. Target or ex-girlfriend? In other words, just how creepy is Cuba? She just went into a building, so the answers will have to wait.
25:00 – Dolph has finally graced us with his presence. And he just beat up five guys in possibly the slowest way possible. He may be slow, but he looks like he’s having a good time, something that cannot be said for our lead.
29:00 – Speaking of, we’re back to Stalker Cuba. He’s been watching the woman for a long time now, and he’s pasting pictures of her into an album. Um…in every crime movie and show since…well…ever, wouldn’t this mark him as a serial killer? Which I guess he kind of is, since he’s a hitman.
29:30 – He also keeps a picture of her in the bible. She’s the little girl from the flashback all grown up, isn’t she?
30:00 – We’re 1/3rd of the way through the movie, and we finally know our protagonist’s name: Ray. I will now go back to calling him Cuba.
32:00 – Dolph has pulled up in a big white convertible with a Hawaiian shirt and white fedora on, a cigarette hanging jauntily out of his mouth, and the dog he took from the guys he beat up earlier by his side. Again, he is the only one in this movie enjoying himself and the only one with a semblance of a personality. Am I supposed to be rooting against him?
35:00 – And he’s got a code of honor. He won’t shoot innocent parties.
37:00 – There’s a lot of apple imagery in this movie for no apparent reason. And Cuba is finally going to talk to the woman! Words were exchanged. Her name is Janice. And he chickened out and fled while she was out of the room, leaving his jacket behind.
39:20 – A lot of the Russian accents in this movie are really dodgy. And why is everything in Prague in English, even the newspapers?
45:00 – Who is this Andrei guy? Should I remember him? Demyan is talking to him like he’s important, but I don’t remember seeing him before. And I’ve been taking notes! Also, every confirmed bad guy in this movie is either wearing a cross or has a cross tattoo. Sometimes both. Just noting the fact.
48:00 – Janice has found Cuba because he left something with his address on it in his jacket. I always thought assassins for hire were a bit like secret agents and didn’t do stupid things like leaving their address where it can be found. Evidently not.
49:00 – Awwww, she’s smitten with him. Of course she is. And he just locked himself out of his building. Seriously. That happened. This man is a professional killer?
53:20 – Cuba’s handler just told the bad guy that, if he goes looking for Cuba, Cuba will find him first. The same Cuba who just locked himself out of his own home? Remember in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy tells the Nazis that they’ll never find Marcus Brody because he has friends in every city in the world and can blend in? Meanwhile, Marcus is bumbling around? Yeah. That’s the feeling I’m getting here.
54:30 – Yep. Dolph found Cuba. No problem.
56:30 – Andrei is back, but he left his accent behind. Now he sounds more Irish.
58:00 – Janice just showed up at Cuba’s house. She’s smitten with him because he’s a fellow American? Is that really what she just said?
58:40 – Yep! She’s the little girl from the flashback! And back then Cuba wore a mask. Convenient. Why is she now trying to kiss him? Cuba has to be 20 years older than her, and they’ve exchanged all of about 100 words. Is she that desperate to meet another American? Aren’t there tourists? An embassy?
1:00:00 – So while Cuba was on the phone finding out that his handler ratted him out to the bad guys, Janice made straight for his back room and instantly recognized her dad’s bible. I’m all for moving the story along, but this is a bit much.
1:01:00 – He’s trying to protect her? From whom? She’s a waitress in Prague. We haven’t had any indication that anyone is after her. Instead it seems like stalking her from a distance under the guise of “protecting her” is just his way of trying to make himself feel better. Of course, considering that she just stormed out, most likely into the waiting arms of Dolph, she’s probably in danger now. But it’s Cuba’s fault that she’s now in this mess. Nice job, Cuba.
1:01:45 – I’m wrong. Dolph snuck into Cuba’s place after she left. Fighting ensues.
1:04:00 – Cuba won the fight and, for completely inexplicable reasons, let Dolph live. Could we have some character motivation behind that decision please? If Dolph does end up threatening Janice later, Cuba will be in the running for worst hitman ever.
1:07:00 – Dolph is going to join forces with Cuba by the end of this thing, isn’t he? Meanwhile, the non-Demyan crime boss has Cuba’s stalker pictures of Janice.
1:08:00 – But first, it’s Demyan and his men versus Dolph in a bath towel (After Dolph puts the dog in an armoire to keep it safe. See Cuba. This is what heroes do…kinda.). And down goes Andrei. Demyan bursts in, continuing his crime family’s tendency of shooting at nothing (or in this case, a defenseless sofa). Dolph and his bath towel emerge victorious over Demyan.
1:13:00 – The non-Demyan crime family has taken Janice hostage. Shocking.
1:14:00 – This would be a much shorter movie if the bad guys actually had their guns drawn when approaching Cuba.
1:18:00 – The remaining main bad guy’s name is Mikhail. I know he got a freeze-frame intro early on, but so did about eight others, all with Russian names. I forgot his. So sue me.
1:19:30 – Cuba is out of ammo for his machine pistols (which are pretty cool, I have to admit). How fortunate for him that the two remaining henchmen both had to reload their machine guns at the same time, giving him the chance to run out and beat them up.
1:20:00 – Mikhail has a gun to Janice’s head. No surprise there. Mikhail orders Cuba to drop his gun, and he does. Also no surprise there. And he shoots Cuba in the shoulder because he wants to draw things out. I’m sure that plan won’t backfire at all.
1:20:45 – Like when Dolph shows up a few seconds later. Bye bye, Mikhail. For those keeping score, Dolph has killed both of the crime bosses and saved the dog, Janice, and Cuba. He is the hero of this movie!
1:22:30 – Janice has issues. Cuba killed her dad, and he is responsible for her being taken hostage. She just watched several men die. After all of that, she still looks like she wants to kiss him. Thankfully, Cuba made her get into a cab before she could. But she’s still looking back at him longingly as Cuba and his shot shoulder walk off into the rainy night.
1:25:00 – It’s some unknown time later, we’re in a completely different city, and Cuba is still stalking Janice. At least he gave her her dad’s bible back. They also perfectly set up One in the Chamber 2: Two in the Chamber, a wacky buddy comedy in which Cuba and Dolph team up against the mob. I won’t hold my breath for that one, though.
And that’s that. Thank you for joining me for One in the Chamber...even though you couldn't actually see it.. I can’t say that you missed much. The action choreography wasn't all that great. Bullets were fired. Cuba sulked and completely lacked charisma. But at least we had Dolph lumbering around to lighten things up.
- Alan Decker
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