THE ONE WITH THE
Copyright 2001 www.variety.com
[ November 12th 2001 ]
there were video games that became Hollywood movies
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat. Now,
there's a movie that seems to be striving, on
all accounts, to be a video game. The One, starring
Jet Li, has mere action figures for characters.
rage through alternate universes which move these
figures to different fighting levels. And the
fights, staged with all kinds of digital and visual
effects, mimic the changes in speed and expansion
of powers achieved by computer graphics in such
(Li) travels through parallel universes and kills
the other universe's equivalent of himself. These
bizarre self-destructive/self- consuming acts
make the man stronger.
dastardly Yulaw has discovered that when he kills
other versions of himself, the energy and strength
of the dead individual become disbursed among
the survivors. Finally, Yulaw kills 123 of his
125 selves. Now, he is en route to our universe
to kill this universe's version of himself (also
played by Li). Of course, the guy in our universe
has no idea he's coming...
One is set against the background of the "Multiverse",
a series of 125 parallel universes connected by
wormholes that open and close at regular intervals.
Something called the Multiverse Bureau of Investigation
polices travel between universes and keeps everything
after the movie begins, the only alter ego left
alive in the multiverse is Gabe Law, an Los Angeles
sheriff's deputy who's the star officer in some
kind of elite whites-and-Asians-only SWAT team,
married to a good-looking woman (Carla Gugino).
for good Gabe, two MBI agents, Roedecker (Delroy
Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham) are on the trail
of bad Gabe. Naturally, everybody finds it hard
to tell the two Gabes apart and good Gabe is soon
being chased by his own colleagues as well as
his evil twin.
easier for the audience, though, to know who's
who because fight choreographer Cory Yuen and
director James Wong give the two characters played
by Li very different fighting styles: Good Gabe
uses curvy, graceful motions, while Bad Gabe uses
more straightforward punching techniques.
film's raison d'etre is its division of Li into
both predator and prey. It's a gimmick too clever
for its own good - at times highly confusing,
these identical twins dissipate audience involvement.
Which Li do you root for?
concept of alternate universes has fascinated
science fiction writers through the years, forming
the basis for a number of fascinating books, television
productions and motion pictures. But, as Hollywood
has often illustrated, the seed of a worthwhile
idea does not necessarily germinate into a compelling
of stunt doubles, motion capture and flying rigs
to create the effect of Li fighting himself is
certainly ingenious. (The climactic fight reportedly
took four weeks to film.) But the effect wears
design, digital matte paintings and costumes are
equally outstanding. But these can never substitute
for a good story. Such is the sad case with the
latest Jet Li vehicle which represents bad action,
worse drama, and excruciating science fiction.
film is adept only when it comes to crafting visually
arresting images, and that's hardly a good reason
to spend 80-odd minutes in a theatre. With subject-matter
as pregnant with promise as the concept of travel
through alternate universes, The One should have
been a bonanza for science-fiction fans.
because director James Wong (who helmed Final
Destination) is disinterested in the paradoxes
inherent in this kind of travel, we are presented
with a frustratingly banal action movie that uses
the science fiction elements as window-dressing.
the fight sequences suffer because of the weakness
of the storyline - had we cared more about the
characters and their situations, we would have
been more concerned about the outcome of the various
martial arts encounters.
might dazzle young boys and, possibly, some science-fiction
fans, but leave other audiences cold. It isn't
just the gimmick of having the same action star
play the good guy and the villain, as in all those
Jean-Claude Van Damme flicks.
also the slo-mo bullet-dodging from The Matrix,
the superpowered bad guy outrunning automobiles
from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator 2 - and
a climactic battle that seems to be fought in
the very same factory where Arnold finally defeated
Robert Patrick's silvery cyborg.
Coming so swiftly on the heels of Li's rousing
Kiss of the Dragon, The One is a disappointing
step backward for the martial arts star.