June 25, 2003
Daz settles down to watch a film where people battle it out with each other with the winner absorbing the other’s power, and the line ‘There can be only one’ is uttered. That’s right, it’s Jet Li in ‘The One’. You were expecting something else?
At every point in an action star’s life he plays the old dual role movie. Schwarzenegger has done it once, Van Damme has done two hundred and seventy three times and now Jet Li has done it. Only Seagal has yet to portray two roles, perhaps because they couldn’t fit two of him on the screen at any one time and even if they did the characters, such as they would be, would be indistinguishable.
I am the one and only, you can’t take that away from me. At least that’s one Gabe Law thought. Living a relatively normal life as a cop, naturally, in California and married to the rather enchanting T.K. played by Carla Gugino. Gabe was about to discover that, according to the film’s blurb at least, the most dangerous man in the universe is himself. I have days like that.
It appears that there are many parallel universes of which travel between has been made possible. It is the job of the Multiverse Agents to police the travel and ensure that nothing untoward happens. However one such MVA named Gabriel Yulaw (also Jet Li) accidentally killed a version of himself in one of the parallel universes and then absorbed all of his life essence, making him stronger, faster and the like. Naturally this kind of thing is frowned upon by the Multiverse council, you could say that Gabriel’s actions were multiversally discouraged. Heh. Gabriel however saw the possibilities and proceeded to illegally travel through different universes exterminating himself and absorbing more power.
Eventually only two remained, and speculation was rife about what would happen should he become ‘The One’. Would he explode, would he implode, or would he become a god? Which was Gabriel’s preferred theory.
Gabriel may be smarter, faster and almost invincible but he still manages to get himself caught in a sequence when it seemed easier to escape that not. Captured and put on trial for 123 counts of murder Yulaw was sentenced to spend the rest of eternity in a penal universe. It’s strange that there are a finite number of universes, and that even though it is explained that everyone is different in terms of who marries who etc, that there is still a Jet Li in every universe. Surely everyone wouldn’t exist in every parallel universe and surely there’d be more than 123? But for the purposes of this movie, that’s all there are and Jet is in every one of them.
Naturally he escapes his rather lenient sentence and makes it to LA to find and kill the happy go lucky Gabe Law. Strictly for the purposes of a big action sequence Lulaw tries to kill Gabe when he is surrounded by a dozen other cops and in the process of escorting a prisoner. Would it have made sense to just shoot him when he was relaxing at home? Perhaps, but not to the director, this is a quick thrill action ride and one not to be thought about too quickly. Any pondering over this film would see it unravel into a pile of unrelated action sequences tagged together by some hastily construed dialogue. Is it any wonder that it was originally intended for WWE Superstar The Rock? The Great One decided to make The Scorpion King instead, so the fight sequences choreographed for a big burly wrestler’s style had to be reworked completely to accommodate the martial arts of Jet Li.
Now that we have Jet Li and not the Brahma Bull, it’s his martial arts skills that raises this film above the mire. Jet is perhaps the most natural successor to the almost immortal Bruce Li in that his style and skill is unmatched. Jet has made some dubious career choices though, after Lethal Weapon 4 he turned down a role in The Matrix Revisited to take Romeo Must Die. Unless he finds that one great role soon he may be consigned to middle budget action movies and never make that breakthrough that his talent deserves.
The running around in confusion that occupies the middle third of this film is compounded by Gabe and Gabriel both dressing the same. It now relies on Jet’s acting to distinguish the two characters, naturally this falls a little short of the mark. In the true style of Hong Kong actioners the finale takes place in a deserted power plant, as seen in several other low budget action movies this year, and lasts for a good ten minutes. Film studios must have these deserted warehouses and power plants on some sort of time share.
For the extra features connoisseur there is a series of behind the scenes interviews and footage cut together to form three themed documentaries. These actually show up the director as having little idea as to what he was doing. They show numerous shots and effects attempts that they’d filmed and failed with. Jet Li and two co-stars on wires being span around a room is one such shot that quite simply did not work. “Ah well, we can fix it in the editing” was a line I’d use to use quite frequently in film school and I see it’s caught on.
The One is enjoyable enough if you’re into martial arts, but its plot is too full of holes to keep the hardened sci-fi fan interested. Borrowing from films such as Time Cop, The Matrix and Highlander (There really can be only one) it doesn’t fully explore any of the ideas that it creates, instead choosing to gloss over the plot inconsistencies with yet another example of Jet’s unique ability.