Li’s The One
Acting and Plot Aside, Fights and Effects AmazeBy Daniel S. Robey
ASSOCIATE ARTS EDITOR
Directed by James Wong
Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong
Starring Jet Li, Delroy Lindo, and Jason Statham
Imagine a world where America is ruled by president Gore. A world where San Francisco is the cleanest city in the United States. A world filled with gladiators fighting to stay alive. Now imagine being able to travel between these worlds. In The One, people have found a way to travel between parallel universes, allowing for commerce, mixing of ideas, and interdimensional murder.
The One amazes with its fight scenes and special effects, but falters due to weak directing and acting. Well-choreographed fight scenes float between choppy plot devices. Characters in the film are shallow and lifeless, and viewers will find it hard to care about their problems. The film’s energy fuels only the intense fight scenes, leaving all else pointless and empty.
Due to bizarre laws of physics, when a denizen of the “Multiverse” is killed by a version of himself from another universe, his energy is distributed between his remaining selves. Yulaw, a former Multiverse policing agent, is killing off his other selves one by one, becoming more powerful each time. Once all his other selves are dead, Yulaw will become godlike. He has killed all but one, Gabe, a police officer of our universe who also has grown in strength and speed with each death.
Two Multiverse agents go to capture Yulaw, but when their mission fails, they must kill both him and Gabe, because the balance must be preserved. Drawing upon the energy stolen from the others, Yulaw accomplishes mind-bending feats of superhuman strength and speed. At one point, he knocks two police officers into the air, and hits each twice before he falls to the ground.
When Yulaw fights, the world goes into accelerated bullet-time, while he remains close to normal speed. Imagine blows that break metal while flying at three times the speed of a normal human. Yulaw even picks up motorcycles and uses them as weapons.
The One uses clichÉ plot devices which serve merely as a backdrop for the amazing fight scenes. Acting skill is minimal, especially on Li’s part, and much of the drama on the screen requires a stretch of imagination. As in many other martial arts movies, everything is taken away from Gabe, priming him for the final fight and leaving him with nothing to live for but revenge. Obvious clues are dwelt on for far too long. Viewers will understand at a glance that the mark Gabe’s wedding ring left behind as he removed it will be important later in the film, but the director lingers on Gabe's fingers until the image grates away at viewer's minds.
Many details in the film seem contrived, and weaken the plot rather than draw it together. Some explanations of the science fiction aspects of the movie could have been better thought out. Multiple questions arise, but are never addressed. The viewer never quite understands why the agents have to kill both Gabe and Yulaw, and we never know exactly what would happen if only one of them were to die. Yulaw at one point describes people as buckets for the energy, and says that he is just moving all the wasted energy into one place. Where the energy would go after a natural death is a mystery.
Scientific inconsistencies aside, the plot is simply a vehicle for new technologies in the martial arts movie industry. The final fight between Gabe and Yulaw is breathtaking. The scene required an entire month to film, and involves the extensive use of body doubles and computer graphics. It really appears as if Jet Li is fighting himself, and performing impossible acts of strength and speed. Halfway through the scene, something in the room explodes, sending sparks flying. The two continue fighting at a super speed, while the sparks, still in normal time, slowly fall to the ground around them.
The One’s acting and plot fail, but it dazzles with cutting-edge special effects and well-coordinated fight sequences. If viewers want drama and subtle storylines, they should look elsewhere, but if they want action sequences that astound, The One delivers.