In The One, we are told there are 125 universes parallel to our own (another take on the tried and true sci-fi The Parallel Universe movie), and in each universe there is a copy of us who shares our energy, or life force. When one of our doppelganger dies in another universe, his life energy is transferred to the remaining “us.” This, of course, makes the remaining 124 a little bit stronger, faster, and smarter. That is the basic premise of The One, which has Jet Li’s evil Yulaw character jumping from parallel universe to another to kill off his doppelgangers in order to take all the life force energy for himself, thus making him stronger, faster, and smarter. Unfortunately, the movie balked at the “smarter” part and only made Yulaw stronger and faster.
When you come right down to it, there is nothing smart about The One. But strangely enough, that was okay. The movie relies on a gimmick plot and the star power of Jet Li, and jumps from one action scene to the next. Each scene is laden with special effects that heightens Li’s already incredible physical prowess. For instance, even Li in his heyday couldn’t grab two police motorcycles and crush a cop with them, wielding the two vehicles like fly swatters.
The movie was originally intended for the wrestler The Rock, who turned it down to do The Scorpion King. Keep this in mind when considering the plot, storyline, and plot points of The One, and don’t be surprise when you realize there’s not really anything there to “think” about. There is, on the other hand, plenty to see and “ooh” and “ahh” at. Co-writer/director James Wong must have understood Li’s limitations, most notably his burgeoning English, and gave Li’s Gabe as little dialogue as possible. Even Yulaw’s dialogue sounds dubbed over and just barely comprehensible. This is no slight on Jet Li, since judging his English is inherently unfair. (Consider his English as compared to my Chinese, which is nonexistent, and you realize the man has more linguistic skills than most of us.)
Without a real story to hang its hat on, The One relies on set pieces and Li’s ability to kick his own ass to please us. And it does please. The action is very well staged and Li carries out his mission with gusto. James Wong, not a noted action director, relies heavily on special effects, but even the sfx in no way takes away from Li’s abilities. Even the movie’s reliance on what has become known as Matrix-like sfx is unique and well done.
Carla Gugino of Spy Kids fame joins the cast as Gabe’s wife, Yulaw’s evil girlfriend in another universe, and a vet in yet another universe. There is a funny bit when we see different versions of Jet Li’s character scrolling in the background. Wong and Li seems to have been doing a “Let’s see how goofy we can make Jet” when they were shooting Li’s different parallel selves. Gugino and the rest of the cast has very little to do except to provide exposition for the movie. Two other characters, Multiverse agents (Multiverse being the movie’s name for the various parallel universes) on Yulaw’s trail, provides the rest of the exposition needed to ensure that Jet Li will have to kick Jet Li ass in order to — what else? — save the universe.
The movie is brisk at just around 90 minutes and leaves room for a sequel, where a banished Yulaw declares, “I’m no one’s bitch!” and proceeds to fight an army of prisoners while ascending a massive pyramid-like structure. Am I holding my breath for a sequel? Yes, if it only focuses on Yulaw, who is the more interesting of the two Jet Li characters.
James Wong (director) / James Wong, Glen Morgan (screenplay)
CAST: Jet Li …. Gabe / Yulaw / Lawless
Carla Gugino …. T.K. / Massie Walsh
Delroy Lindo …. Roedecker /Attendant
Jason Statham …. Evan Funsch