Directed by James Wong The One is intended as a sci-fi thriller. The film is set in the distant future where a megalomaniac criminal is killing alternate versions of himself throughout the multiverse to gain super powers. Or something like that, the truth is it doesnt really matter. Starring the martial arts stand out Jet Li, the movie has a silly comic book plot that resembles The Matrix and about half a dozen other science fiction movies. What it offers is an excuse to showcase Mr. Lis talents, which consist of incredible displays of martial arts fireworks. Or as my friend Kaufman likes to say, he unleashes a martial arts explosion.
To date Jet Li has shown himself to be a competent special effect but not much of an actor. Im afraid this film doesnt change much. Dont get me wrong, I loved watching him fight his evil twin and generally unleash mayhem wherever he went but chop socky does not a Bob Deniro make.
The breakdowns occur, as you would expect, at any point when Mr. Li is called upon to act. The relationship between him and his wife is not believable or interesting in the slightest. His attempts at riffing some cool, detached star lines like the action heroes Mr. Willis or Schwarznegger simply ring false. His diction is poor as he struggles to deliver his lines. His mouth fails him where his fists or feet never do.
His performance makes you appreciate all the more what the actor Jackie Chan can do. He makes his martial arts work an after thought, something his character does as he struggles to make sense of a situation or find a creative solution to it. Unlike the clichéd gunslinger spoiling for a fight hes a guy trying to find a way out of one. Mr. Chan is funny and cool because hes genuine. He displays a real flair of comedic timing and he doesnt pretend to appear detached. I guess its just screen presence, either you got it or you dont.
The other actors are merely window dressing here, and thats a shame because Delroy Lindo in particular deserves better. His performances in X or Crooklyn have shown his range and sensitivity as an actor. Here as a cop bent on bringing in the wayward Yulaw, the evil Jet Li twin, he serves mostly as a punching bag.
At a running time of only eighty-seven minutes The One is a quick trip. It has some cool fight scenes, the special effects are amazing, and it features an extra bombastic soundtrack but as far as story or acting goes forget it. Im Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 2001 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 11/7/01
USA - 2001