A severely asinine sci-fi/action flick that isn't even worth the number of stars listed in the title, "The One" is anther hideous mishap in Asian action star Jet Li's attempt to cross over into American cinema. Li's last picture, "Kiss of the Dragon," was no great shake, either, but at least it told a story that made a certain amount of sense and actually featured characters to go along with the action sequences. "The One," on the other hand, is a dim-witted, empty-headed, unintelligible slog through science fiction nonsense about alternate universes and dopplegangers. It's only 80 minutes, including credits, so count your blessings.
In a cheesy prologue that stands as the only exposition one will be able to find about the specifics of the premise, it is told that there are 125 alternate worlds, and each one has a version of the same person. With the death of each alter ego, the others get progressively more powerful, and if 124 can successfully be killed off, the last remaining one will have the strength to rule the universe. Yulaw (Jet Li) is a maniacal baddie who has caught wind of this miraculous occurrence, and good guy Gabriel Law (Jet Li, again) is #124 on his list. Yes, it's that type of movie. And yes, Jean-Claude Van Damme must have been busy.
Directed by James Wong and written by Glen Morgan and Wong (the team behind 2000's smart, effective "Final Destination"), "The One" is neither smart nor effective. It does effectively give you a headache, however, with sound effects constantly blasted at full throttle and set-pieces so reliant on state-of-the-art visual effects that the whole thing comes off as one artificial chase/fight scene after the next.
Stringing the action together is a foolish plot that gives the viewer no help in decoding its logic, and characters so devoid of life that there is no one to root for. Obviously, Gabriel Law is supposed to be the hero and Yulaw is intended as the villain, but while Yulaw does kill enough people to qualify as someone not worth liking, no reasons are given for why we should care about Gabriel. He's a nice enough guy and has a loving veterinarian wife named T.K. (Carla Gugino), but that doesn't take away the fact that he's as dumb as a post and as dense as a Dr. Seuss book.
Jet Li manages the near-impossible, being a one-note cipher even while playing two very different lead roles. Li has limited dialogue to embarrass himself with, but what he has comes off laughably earnest, made worse by his frequent stumbling over the English language. "Without her, I'm him," Gabriel laments at one point over the apparent death of a loved one. It's really quite funny.
Backing Li up, and not getting a chance to do anything, are Carla Gugino (2001's "Spy Kids"), as Gabriel's wife, T.K., and Delroy Lindo (2001's "The Last Castle") and Jason Statham (2001's "Ghost of Mars") as a pair of cops who are following Yulaw through the multiple universes. Statham is especially dreadful, speaking in the type of emotionless, monotone voice that only one of the living dead could master with such believability.
The climax, a mano-a-mano battle between Yulaw and Gabriel, is so overenhanced with special effects and amateurishly choreographed that it proves to be remarkably boring. It is doubtful that director Wong was going for that adjective when he dreamt up this conclusion. Like the wormholes that Yulaw uses to hop between worlds, "The One" is one vacuous hole of a movie.
Copyright © 2001 Dustin Putman