The One Movie Review
Jet Li has not had the success that Jackie Chan has when it comes to infiltrating Hollywood. While Chan has enjoyed critical and fan praise for his [now franchises] Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, Jet Li's American theatrical releases, such as Black Mask and Kiss of the Dragon, have been relative duds, and for good reason.
So it is good to see this master fighter finally make a movie that is worth seeing, even if it is a little cliché. It was obvious when the trailer came out that The One was trying to play off the success of The Matrix, combining kung fu with slow motion special effects. It was also obvious that The One wasn't going to have the impact of The Matrix. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that The One is a good mix of sci-fi and action, entertaining from beginning to end. It isn't very cheesy and it takes itself pretty seriously, and things pay off.
Usually, movies that star the lead actor twice are crap. Arnold Schwarzenneger failed miserably in The 6th Day (also a sci-fi action film), Jackie Chan wasn't overly successful in Twin Dragons, and let's not even get into Jean-Claude Van Damme's many two-timing movies. However, here, the result isn't overly cheesy, as two parallel entities of the same person duke it out, both with special powers since they are the last remaining of "their person." Both the bad and good Jet Li have pretty decent character depth (for an action movie like this, of course), and the movie is smart enough to keep them from fighting one-on-one with each other most of the time. In fact, the weakest part of the film is their fight scene at the end, but it's really not that bad.
There's lots of action in The One, which is good to see since most of today's action movies do not have a lot of action (look at Swordfish, for example). The action is a good blend of gun fighting, kung fu, and slow-motion-to-fast-motion special effects, which are pretty impressive. They aren't at The Matrix's level, but they work well. There are scenes where Jet Li is throwing people up into the air and while they fall back down to the ground in slow motion, he beats the shit out of them. All in all, it looks pretty real, although there are a few flaws near the end (which isn't too surprising, since the two Jet Li's had to be computerized together).
Of course, it seems as though many good action movies have been dragged down by their plots, and sadly, The One is another of them. The plot isn't horrible, but it isn't very original, either, and the basic theme behind the whole movie isn't thought out at all. My largest complaint was the rationality behind the bad Jet Li becoming The One (once he kills this final parallel guy, all others like him will be dead so he will achieve greatness, or tear the universe apart). It only seems logical to me that if parallel universes do exist, there would be an infinite amount of them. I understand that for Jet Li to possess great powers and for there to be suspense, the writers had to cut corners, but the bad guy only has to kill 124 other versions of himself to become The One. That makes no sense. To support my point, think about this. If only two remain for the rest of their lives, and they have parallel children, then only two of those kids will exist, and so they will have great power as well, along with their descendants to eternity. It just doesn't make any sense.
Also, the movie falls apart in the last five minutes. Really, the movie's over by this point, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal, but when you're left with such a disappointing finish, it is bothersome. First, I don't understand how the good guy somehow manages to get sent back in time basically to where he first met his wife (sorry if this is a spoiler, but oh well. You don't care about the plot anyway), and second, the whole scene that explains what happens to the bad Li is just trash, and totally inconclusive. What were the makers of this film thinking?
Aside from some weak plot points, The One is a surprisingly entertaining, action-packed, and effects-filled thrill ride, and Jet Li turns in his best English performance ever.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.