2001, PG-13, 80 min. Directed by James Wong. Starring Jason Statham, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jet Li.
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Nov. 2, 2001
This One's for you if (a) you dug The Matrix but found it a bit too highbrow; (b) you appreciate movies to the extent that they resemble video games; or (c) you'd pay to see Jet Li in anything -- and I do mean anything. Announcing its flagrantly derivative nature with a title referencing Keanu Reeves' character from The Matrix, The One is a “thrill ride” movie with all the predictability, brevity, and industrial efficiency that cliché implies. What you see in the trailers is pretty much what you get: a half-assed storyline framing a series of lavishly staged, wire-aided martial arts extravaganzas set to the latest in deafening goon-metal tuneage. Okay, now that I've lowered your expectation appropriately, let me offer (faint) praise where it's due. To a slightly greater degree than other game-derived and game-like movies such as Wing Commander, Double Dragon, and Highlander: Endgame, The One offers a few airy gestures in the general direction of character development. Li, in his double role as an L.A. county sheriff menaced by an evil doppelganger from a parallel universe, is a charismatic, surprisingly affecting presence. He can certainly act circles around the likes of Seagall and Van Damme, for what that's worth. Statham (Snatch) and the underused Lindo (Clockers) add enjoyable hard-boiled panache to their roles as “Multiverse agents” sent to arrest the murderous Yulaw (Li's doppelganger), who's threatening to acquire godlike powers by offing all his alternate selves and soaking up their vital forces. And the striking Li vs. Li action sequences are impressive as hell in the genre's characteristic, over-the-top way. After a while, though, I did find myself going a bit glassy-eyed over the constant onslaught of wowie-zowie special effects. For no other reason than their conformity to conventional Einsteinian physics, I felt warm, almost tearful rushes of gratitude for those brief moments when Li appeared to be doing something, you know -- real. It's just my old-fart hangup, I guess. Simply knowing that similar techniques are used to create the holy shit! moments in modern action cinema and the chorus of singing alley cats in a Meow Mix commercial tends to create a rough equivalency in my mind. Bruce Lee, we hardly knew ye.