Copyright 2001

[ November 12th 2001 ]

First, 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.

Battles 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 games.

Yulaw, (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.

The 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...

The 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 in balance.

Soon 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).

Fortunately 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.

It's 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.

The 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?

The 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 motion picture.

The use 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 off quickly.

Production 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.

The 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.

However, 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.

Ironically, 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.

The film 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.

There's 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.

Verdict: 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.

Copyright (c) 2000 - 2024 is not owned or operated by CDE Entertainment Ltd.
Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are trademarks of CDE Entertainment Ltd.
Materials in this web site are trademarked and copyrighted properties of their respective owners.