Sony // 2001 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 5th, 2002
In order to save the universe, he will have to fight the fiercest enemy he has ever faced...himself.
It seems as if international martial arts superstar Jet Li has been in almost every movie under the sun. Yes, Li is the Whoopi Goldberg of action films. This time around Li plays a character that spans multiple universes and has many personalities (if that plot doesn't sound promising, just be thankful it doesn't star Carrot Top). Featuring all kinds of kung-fu martial arts moves and state-of-the-art digital graphics from the director who brought us Final Destination, The One comes flying home to DVD care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Shockingly, producer Joel Silver had nothing to do with this mess.
All right, see if you can follow this: Apparently, there are multiple universes. Each universe contains one of you. There are a total of 124 universes, hence 124 of you. In each universe you are a different you (i.e., in one you are married to a man, in another you are an ex-con, in yet another you are a janitor in northern Alaska). In the future man is able to leap from universe to universe. Of course, like anything in the future, this holds terrifying possibilities. Apparently, if one man is able to hop from one universe to the next and kill off his multi-personalities, he gains their powers until the last "man" is killed...making the final survivor the "one." Got that?
The bad guy in this film is Yulaw (Li) who has just killed off one of his other parallel selves (played also by Li). In hot pursuit of Yulaw are Roedecker (Delroy Lindo, also with Li in Romeo Must Die) and Funsch (Jason Statham, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels), both of whom work for the Multiverse Bureau of Investigation. Yulaw needs to kill only one more man (played again by...wait for it...Li!) to complete his mission, which will in turn either turn him into a God or possibly destroy time and space as we know it.
The One is a rough movie to review. On one hand, it's a briskly paced (under 90 minutes) action movie with lots of stuff blowin' up and tons of CGI effects for fans to ogle at. On the other hand, this film's plot makes about as much sense as Tom Arnold's career (apparently it's "slam on the cheesy comedians" day at DVD Verdict). From the very get go The One moves along briskly, only slowing down to fill us in on a few key plot points that aren't really all that key. All kinds of things happen in the movie, and they consist of either A.) things a-goin' "ka-boom," B.) Jet Li kicking someone really hard, or C.) people being pulled apart by a force that sends them from one universe to another. All three of things are fairly interesting. That's the glue that holds this film together.
The same can't be said for the script. A mish-mash of ideas and concepts, The One never truly pulled me in to where I was saying, "Oh, I just gotta see what happens next!" The theories this movie juggles are way to large for a little mindless action flick. Why only 124 universes? If each time the power of a deceased alternate universe persona is divided among the survivors, then why aren't there more superhero-like beings out there? And what the heck is Yulaw's motivation for killing off all his other personas?
Ah, but these are questions for some other movie about parallel universes and divided telekinetic powers. The One is much more concerned about showing Jet Li move faster than what appears to be the speed of sound. Kicking, punching, and tackling everyone in his way, Li proves that he's a very adept man when it comes to challenging stunt work. What Li doesn't show is that he's a half way decent actor. I'm not sure if it's the scripts Li's getting or his acting style, but the guy has only one expression: a dead poker face. For instance:
Li's upset: poker face.
Li's really pissed: poker face.
Li's just had a cosmic orgasm: poker face times two.
The guy never really cracks much of a smile, and mostly talks in a jaded, monosyllabic accent that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like the leader of the American debate team. The rest of the cast backing Li up is able yet lacking. Delroy Lindo, who had a much more meatier role in the far better Jet Li vehicle Romeo Must Die, has little to do here but spout some nonsense dialogue and look determined. Jason Statham plays the exact same character as he did in Ghosts Of Mars (I kid you not), only to a much lesser degree. Carla Gugino (Spy Kids) is only on screen to be the woman Li loves and loses then regains once more in one of the cheesiest endings ever captured on celluloid (and please, don't email me saying I've spoiled the ending for you. If you didn't see it coming from 100 miles away, then you've poked your finger too far up your nose one too many times).
I can't really say that The One is worth buying, but it is worth seeing in a bland oatmeal action kind of way. No one in the film stands out in any shape or form. The script is riddled with loopholes so large that it'll make your head spin. Even with all these complaints, you've got to give the movie credit where credit is due: it sure felt like a quick 87 minutes. Some nifty effects and entertaining action make this a passable, if ho-hum, sci-fi action thriller.
The One is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a very sharp looking picture that displays almost no imperfections. The color patterns (predominate blues and blacks) and black levels all looks sharp and focused with no bleeding or muting present. Overall, Columbia has done a very nice job on this transfer. Also included on this disc is a full screen version of the film.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and Dolby 2.0 in French. While this is certainly a serviceable mix, I wasn't quite as impressed with the overall directional use as expected. There are many instances of front and rear speaker usage, though overall I didn't think this was as aggressive a mix as it could have been. However, all aspects of the soundtrack are free of any distortion or hiss, so thank God for small favors. Also included on this disc are subtitles in Thai, Korean, Chinese, French, and English.
Presented in a special edition, The One features an ample array of extra features. Starting the disc is a commentary track by director James Wong and a few other production members. Wong is a relatively monosyllabic talker who has a lot of thoughts on the process of filmmaking and Jet Li's fighting techniques. The rest of the crew, including the editor and production designer, also have some interesting thoughts to add to the proceedings. This is a partially engaging commentary that should please fans.
Up next are three featurettes, the first titled "Jet Li is The One." This is your basic love letter to the star of the film with interviews by the cast and crew saying things like "Li is so great" and "he's a wonderful actor," and blah blah blah. Interestingly, The Rock was the first choice for the film (he opted for the abysmal The Mummy Returns instead). "Multiverses Create The One" takes a look at some of the production, ideas and concepts behind the film. "About Face" is an interesting look at how the filmmakers utilized effects to produce two Jet Li's on screen at one time. This is probably the best and most informative of the three featurettes.
Finally, there is a music video-like sequence titled "The Many Faces Of Jet Li," a theatrical trailer for the film, some select filmographies, and an animatic comparison that uses action figures (!) and CGI in place of the actors.
The One will not go down in history as one of the most amazing action films ever made. The idea behind the film is inspiring, but the execution is not. However, any move that features a man picking up two motorcycles and squashing a cop between them can't be all that bad.
The One is just barely free to go. Maybe in some parallel universe it's Die Hard, but in this one it ranks just above Firestorm.
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary by Director James Wong and Select Cast and Crew Members
* Three Featurettes
* "The Many Faces Of Jet Li"
* Animatic Comparisons
* Theatrical Trailer