The One

Movie Information

Genre: Martial Arts Sci-Fi
Director: James Wong
Starring: Jet Li, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Staham
Rated: PG-13

The One has a little of everything – two Jet Lis for the price of one, at least three Carlo Guginos, a couple Delroy Lindos, a laborious home-grown mythology, lots of CGI effects, bodies hurtling through space, explosions, car crashes, famine, flood, pestilence…Oh, alright, they left out the last three, but it was probably an oversight. Any film that contains an exploding rat is certainly prepared to go to any desperate length necessary to attempt to tantalize the viewer. Too bad that almost none of this works. It’s a case of too much adding up to not enough. What’s particularly regrettable is that this incendiary mess should follow close on the heels of Li’s very good Kiss of the Dragon. You know you’re in for it when you run afoul of a movie that has to start off with a lengthy explanation of its mythology, which is precisely where The One does start — with a tiresome explanation about parallel universes (“multiverses”) and an attempt being made by Yulaw (Jet Li) to polish off all 123 of his parallel selves in these universes, thereby becoming “The One” with the collective power of 124. This will either make him a god or destroy the world, or maybe the universe, or maybe the multiverse. All that stands between Yulaw and “oneness” is a member of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Gabe (also Jet Li). When Yulaw kills him and absorbs his energy, he will be the “The One.” Confused? Don’t feel alone. The writer and director seem to be confused, too. Perhaps they simply don’t care that this all sounds like one of Der Arnold’s cast-offs (this makes The 6th Day look like great art), since it’s soon obvious that the movie’s entire raison d’etre is to cram as much mindless action into 80 minutes of screen time as possible. Unfortunately, even the mindless action is…well, dull. For some reason, The One is a movie that dearly loves a cliche. The only thing it likes better than a cliche is a really tired, infirm, gravely debilitated cliche — and it has no trouble finding them. This thing even trots out the old “false-scare-by-cat” stand-by that was inducing massive outbursts of audience groaning in 1935. The action is pretty much non-stop — so much so that the film seems rushed (not that I wanted it to go on any longer than it did). The hook, of course, is the spectacle of seeing Jet Li square-off with himself in a fight to the finish. Okay, but that comes with a problem, since the inherent thrill of watching Li’s martial arts displays is effectively dampened when it’s all obviously effects work. It doesn’t help matters that the Big Showdown takes place in some huge factory, the function of which is so incomprehensible that it distracts from the action. (Just what sort of factory is this? It boasts a lot of intimidating-looking machinery, nearly all of which seems prone to emitting showers of sparks. It also has innumerable cat-walks, the better to leap around on. And it has pipes that threaten to burst and unleash some vile green liquid at any moment. My guess is that it’s the world’s most elaborate sewage treatment plant, which isn’t terribly inept in this case.) Typically, the whole thing ends in such a manner as to leave room for a sequel, and while I do like the idea of the confusion bound to result from a movie called The One 2, I’m not in the least ungrateful that the prospect of such a thing happening seems remote.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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