November 8, 2001 -- "The One" is an expensive-looking martial arts-science fiction movie that delivers a lot less than you would expect from it. While the star, Jet Li, has impeccable martial arts credentials, his lack of acting ability helps sink the film. Li, who starred in "Black Mask" and "Fist of Legend," can kung fu with the best of them. His range as an actor, however, is nearly as limited as his ability to speak English. Even a good actor, however, would have trouble breathing life into this clunky script.
The story has Li playing a variety of roles of identical-looking characters in various alternate universes. Using something called "quantum tunneling" some travelers are able to travel from one parallel universe to another. A similar idea was explored in some depth in a TV series called "Sliders." Instead of an infinite number of universes, what one would expect from quantum theory, there are a mere 125 universes in the "multiverse" of this movie.
A special police force called the Multiverse Bureau of Investigation patrols these worlds looking for multidimensional criminals. Gabriel Yulaw (Li) is one such investigator. During an investigation, he kills his alter ego in another dimension and receives an unexpected burst of energy. It turns out every time another of his parallel selves dies, he gets a little stronger, faster and smarter (although he doesn't act any smarter). He decides to go to all the other 123 universes and kill his counterparts. He believes he will end up with godlike powers if he can do this.
As we pick up the story, Yulaw has just about finished his task and is heading to kill his last remaining counterpart, another Gabriel Yulaw living on what appears to be our dimension. The local Yulaw is a cop. He is also getting faster and stronger because of the murders committed by the evil Yulaw. It seems that all the pent-up inter dimensional energy is now shared by the last two Yulaws. A couple of Multiverse Bureau of Investigation cops are also running around, Roedecker (played by Delroy Lindo of "The Cider House Rules") and Funsch (Jason Statham of "Ghosts of Mars"). Well, you know the drill, good cop gets framed, regular cops are too stupid to figure it out, car chases, explosions, shoot-outs, and one final big fight. It is pretty much by the numbers. There's no suspense here, really.
While the special effects are interesting, the fights are disappointing, considering the skill that Jet Li is capable of bringing to such scenes. I suppose it must be difficult to stage fight scenes in which you are fighting yourself. It probably requires a lot of special effects to make it look believable. In fact, it did not look believable, but it was kind of interesting to watch. The fight scenes constantly varied from normal to very fast to slow-motion, like somebody kept fiddling with the playback speed. It is an interesting effect. The acting, the wooden dialogue and the brainless script really hinder the film. Lindo is a fine actor, but he doesn't have much to work with in this film. There's hardly an intelligent line to be heard. Statham is adequate as the tough hero cop, while Li just goes through the motions. Carla Gugino of "Spy Kids" plays T. K., Yulaw's wife, but its a pretty small role.
Considering the talent that went into this film (it was directed and co-written by James Wong, the writer-director of "Final Destination"), it is a disappointment. I mean "Final Destination" wasn't exactly a classic, but it was a lot more interesting than this. "The One" should have been a lot better. It turns out to be a mediocre action vehicle, for hard-core action junkies only. It rates a C.
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