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One, The

By: 
Big McLargehuge
Directed by: 
Glen Morgan
James Wong
Cast: 
Jet Li
Carla Gugino
Delroy Lindo
Jason Statham

 Can someone confirm that Jet Li actually makes movies in the United States and doesn’t simply license his image to a gang of pixel monkeys who digitally insert him into films. See, I think he still spends all of his time in Hong Kong being orally serviced by a gang of concubines while a bunch of animators create digital likenesses of him and stick them into lousy action movies.
 
Look at what he’s made in the US? Okay, his role as non-speaking villain was good in Lethal Weapon 4 (a franchise that should have ended with Lethal Weapon), Cradle 2 Grave, Romeo Must Die, and Kiss of the Dragon.
 
Mr. Li better get his shit together in a hurry or he’ll be second banana to Antonio Sabato Jr. in Shark Hunter 14 before he can snap a kick at his agent’s nuts.
 
Jet Li isn’t the only thing wrong with The One, the writing is terrible.
 
The One was authored by James Wong and Glen Morgan, two guys who made a big splash on TV with The X-Files, and significantly lesser splashes with the ill received Space Above and Beyond, and Millennium (Lance Henrikson’s last decent work), it seems natural that they could apply their talents to big-screen offerings.
 
Their canon contain The One sandwiched between Final Destination, a film I hated (and a sequel I hated even more), and Willard (flop). So they aren’t batting to well. I wonder how long before the last of their X-Files credits runs out and they are left to panhandle for change on a Hollywood street corner?
 
It seems kind of mean to pick on two guys who’ve essentially dedicated themselves to somewhat literate speculative fiction without resorting to obviously aping other sources. Well, with The One, they ape plenty. In fact there are so many other films aped here I half expected to see Lancelot Link and J. Fred Muggs credited as special script consultants.
 
Following the bad writing is lousy directing.
 
The success of The Matrix meant lots and lots of films built their entire story on how many times they could use that annoying bullet-time effect before the audience rebelled and burned down the theater. The One uses bullet-time so often it could have been listed as an actor. Adding to the eye-rolling is the constant use of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (A Kung Fu Movie) wire work, s-u-p-e-r s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n, and an overreliance on CGI that makes Toy Story look like a short film.
 
On top of all this other baggage, The One suffers from a few other problems. Now I am not all that fond of Jet Li’s Hong Kong flicks, I think they tend to be derivative and for the most part, boring. He doesn’t have the sense of humor of Jackie Chan, nor does he have the hard-core martial arts chops of Gordon Lieu, and while his films have attracted a wide audience in the west I find them mostly lacking. One of the things that drags Jet Li down is his range as an actor. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect martial arts stars to be master thespians, look at Steven Segal or Chuck Norris, two men who can manage to make an interesting film now and then without an iota of acting talent. But Li is just awful. Even Steven Segal mumbling his way through the latest direct to video flab-a-thon offers better acting than Jet Li in The One.
 
Jet Li has exactly one expression; waiting for the toaster. He could be in mid-ass-kick and still manage to portray the visage of a man either bored or completely disassociated from the action going on around him. He can get over some of this in his native China because he speaks Chinese and can perform the right inflection to make the lines somewhat interesting. The One, on the other hand, leaves poor Jet Li phonetically speaking his lines so that absolutely everything he says sounds like it’s coming out of a robot.
 
Okay... So what’s The One all about?
 
We begin on some Earth in a distant yet strangely similar universe. Gabriel Yu Law (Jet Li) blinks into the frame and wails on some cops, one of which is another Jet Li, and kills him. Then borrowing a scene and idea from Highlander (tremendously overrated swordplay movie), Gabriel Yu Law absorbs the energy of the dead Jet Li guy.
 
Blinking into the scene are two cops, Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Stratham) who capture Gabriel Yu Law and transport him back to... er... Multiverse Central. And what is Multiverse Central? Why, it’s where all the Multiverse officers work and live. See there are apparently several parallel universes, all with parallel Earth’s, and one particular strain of humanity has figured out how to jump back and forth between these parallel worlds.
 
The Multiverse Agents intervene to return illegal world jumpers to Multiverse Central then to a penal colony somewhere in the vast Multiverse.
 
It’s not all that bad an idea really, but The One doesn’t do anything interesting with it. For all intents and purposes it’s the same story as Timecop, only with cross parallel travel rather than linear time travel. When you’re cribbing script pages from Timecop and the last few episodes of Quantum Leap, it’s time to start over. What Wong and Morgan do is “borrow” plot mechanics from these other sources then... do absolutely nothing with them. I was interested in the Multiverse, I really was. I wanted to know more about it, what it was like to live in the essential nucleus of the Universe.
 
Instead I get a cop movie...
 
Okay, so who is Gabriel Yu Law and why is he so strong and fast? Easy, he’s a former Multiverse Agent who, when faced with an evil parallel version of himself, killed him in self defense. Realizing that he absorbed some of the parallel (and now dead) Yu Law’s power, Gabriel sets off through the Multiverse killing his parallels and subsequently distributing their power through the finite number of Yu Law parallel’s remaining in the Multiverse.
 
There can be only one...
 
Anyway, he’s captured, but with the help of one-time-friend and current adversary Roedecker and evil parallel Carla Gugino (looking hotter than the surface of the sun in a blazing red dress), is transported not to the penal colony but to another alternate Earth, this one holding the last remaining Yu Law. Meet Gabe Yu Law, also played with cardboard like acting by Jet Li, a sheriff’s deputy for Los Angeles and married to T.K. Law (Carla Gugino). He realizes that something is strange when he and his partner are attacked by Gabriel Yu Law and he survives what should have been a life-ending injury.
 
Rounding out the cast are some old character actors from the Space Above and Beyond series graciously given a few days off from their regular jobs as Wal Mart greeters, James Morrison as an LAPD LT Aldritch, and Tucker Smallwood as the penal colony warden.
 
Gabe checks himself out of the hospital and goes home where T.K. worries that he’ still injured and badgers him into getting another series of tests done tomorrow. Gabe agrees and practices some metsa-metsa-looking kung fu. He also reveals that the person who attacked him was... er... him.
 
T.K. thinks maybe he was hit in the head and schedules an MRI.
 
Meanwhile Roedecker and Funsch blink into the world where Gabe Yu Law lives and start tracking Gabriel Yu Law.
 
The next morning Gabe surrenders his gun to the hospital and slips into his jammies for an MRI. He’s nervous, we can tell because he looks like he’s waiting for his tea to steep. Taking over some of the acting needed, and balancing out Li’s inability to portray anything other than mild bemusement, the MRI nurse is an overacting twit, and the actual MRI tech is a clumsy doofus.
 
Yeah, that helps us see Gabriel as a “normal” guy. A line uttered by the rotten nurse that just climbs up my spine like a spider in stilletto heels shows all the compassion and warm bedside manner of modern corporate hospital staff, “jeez, it’s just an MRI...”
 
Yeah, I am sure she’d say that to someone who might have a tumor, or advanced heart disease...
 
Get the impression I have issues with hospitals?
 
Anyway, Yu Law is told he has to stay motionless for seven to thirty minutes while the MRI completes the scan. This is emphasized by the wonderful humanity of the MRI technical who whines “if you move we have to start ALL OVER AGAIN.” Gabe surrenders his gold necklace and wedding ring because... er.... apparently non-magnetic materials can affect the MRI scan. Whatever... I guess it’s probably good practice because who wants to spend seven zillion dollars on a 3D imaging of their jewelry. It also established the only way T.K. can distinguish between the good and evil Yu Law’s. Gabe has a worn spot on his wedding ring finger, the evil Yu Law doesn’t.
 
Gabe wants T.K. to go and get his gun because he can “feel” that the evil Yu Law is nearby. T.K. still thinks he’s nuts but agrees to go and at least get Aldrich and the sheriff’s deputies to stand in the MRI room while he’s incapacitated.
 
She goes to them but decides, inexplicably, not to ask them to go to the MRI lab.
 
(* Jim insert Star Trek Kirk Fight Music Here)
 
This, of course, allows the evil Yu Law to enter, kill the MRI technician (thankfully), and make a move on Gabe. Roedecker and Funsch blink into the room and a standoff ensues. Much bullet time ensues as the evil Yu Law dodges a barrage of shots from the other Roedecker and Funsch’s pistols. A security guard barges in and Yu Law kills him and takes his gun, then, shoves it into the MRI to kill a still supine Gabe. Because the MRI is highly magnetic (i.e. MRI = Magnetic Resonance Imaging) the pistol sticks to the inside of the device.
 
Gabe uses this as his chance to escape and slides out of the machine. He and the evil Gabe fight briefly. The evil Yu Law smashes the machine to free his pistol eliciting a blast of carbon dioxide gas... I have no idea what lives in an MRI other than a magnet, so I guess there could be some gas in there... beats me.
 
The evil Yu Law high-tails it, and Funsch tells Gabe to stay here in the lab and wait. Of course, because Jet Li doesn’t speak English, he runs off and changes into his clothes. Coincidentally, he wears a black jumpsuit EXACTLY like the black jumpsuit worn by the evil Yu Law.
 
Yeah, that’ll make it easy to tell them apart... Didn’t Gabe see what the evil twin was wearing? Why did he change back into the jumpsuit? Didn’t he figure that looking exactly like the guy who killed the MRI technician would cause problems when he ran into his law enforcement buddies? Hello? Someone? Anyone??
 
All the commotion has attacked T.K., Aldrich, and the sheriff’s deputies waiting for Gabe to finish his test. They meet him in the hallway. After a few tense seconds he is forced to defend himself and uses some mediocre-fu to clip them all together with handcuffs before running off.
 
(* Jim insert Star Trek Kirk Fight Music Here)
 
Roedecker sends Funsch back to get Gabe and engages Gabriel in a fight outside the hospital. Now, for someone with the strength of a few hundred dead Jet Li’s, Gabriel lets Roedecker beat on him for a while. It’s baffling that a character supposedly so powerful he’s become a messianic figure to some other residents of the Multiverse, that he can be punched, kicked, slammed in a door, and all around beaten on by Delroy Lindo.
 
This whole scene is to set up a (yawn) special effects sequence where Jet Li simultaneously beats on two motorcycle cops then uses their bikes as clubs. It’s done through a combination of CGI and wire work and it looks okay, if not obvious.
 
I guess I’m jaded but this sort of stuff just doesn’t move me. I don’t know if it’s my inherently rational nature or some unwillingness to suspend disbelief for fight scenes, but if you add lots of CGI, I’m as good as bored. Give me something a little more realistic, if not exciting, that shows off the inherent prowess of the star. CGI has the power to make anyone, even Christopher Lee, an action star (Count Dooku anyone?) so there isn’t anything for us to watch. We know Yu Law is super powerful, but he seems only a little more powerful than the regular guys he fights.
 
Delroy Lindo dies.
 
The evil Yu Law steals a little bomb from him and runs off into the city.
 
Gabe runs off with Funsch in pursuit. Now the film bogs down with exposition as Gabe is brought up to date on the Multiverse, Multiverse Agents, his parallel evil twin and associated history, and countless other plot points that were already made clear to the audience. Gabe’s response to all this news, and all these experiences is “I don’t want any part of this...”
 
Yeah, good luck with that buddy. He KNOWS that the evil Yu Law wants to kill him. He knows that his very existence puts every single person he knows and loves in danger, including himself, yet he wants to just walk away?
 
This, of course, sets up a scene where Gabe has to figure out a reason to be proactive. Usually this is the death of his closest pal, and staying true to the form of not having a single original idea other than the Multiverse, someone close to Yu Law has to bite it.
 
If you said “why Big McLargehuge, that would be T.K.” you’d be right.
 
T.K., Aldrich, and the sheriff’s deputies arrive at T.K. and Yu Law’s house in case he’s come home. While searching the place T.K. notices something and gets Aldrich to leave her alone in the bedroom. She opens the attic and there is Jet Li. How he got there is a question for the ages since he’s about 3 feet tall in real life and there doesn’t appear to be a way up to reach the attic door in the ceiling. Maybe he had one of the grips maneuver him there on the wires he uses for all his non-CGI stunts...
 
Anyway, Jet Li is in the attic...
 
Here we learn that post production sound featured heavily in the making of this film. See, Yu Law’s face is partially obscured by shadow, and whenever he says his lines we can clearly see that his lips don’t move.
 
Either that or Jet Li is a really good ventriloquist. Hey, maybe I just pitched his next film: Ventriloquist of Death! Morgan... Wong? You guys listening?
 
Gabe begs for his gun. T.K. explains that in all the chaos she left it at the hospital. He begs again for his gun. So T.K. gets one from the dressing table.
 
Uh oh... (relax she hasn’t figured it that the real Gabe would have know it was there yet)
 
On the garage roof is another Yu Law creeping ninja-like towards the bedroom. T.K. sees him. Aha! Something’s afoot. Now considering that she ignored Gabe for the whole movie and does the opposite of what he says at EVERY occasion, why does she go back to the ceiling with the gun in hand, and play let’s pop quiz Jet Li about intimate personal details.
 
She tricks Yu Law with a simple question into reveling his true identity. Now, say it like Alex Trebek, “oh, I’m sorry...”
 
He kills her in front of the window specifically so that Gabe, now in the yard, can watch her die. Jet Li shows his stoic nature by reacting to his wife’s murder as if his toast isn’t quite done yet. Funsch shoots at the evil Yu Law and everyone runs off.
 
 
Funsch determines that a wormhole will open up in a few hours and that he and Gabe have to lure the evil Yu Law to the spot where the wormhole appears so they can blink him back to Multiverse Central. They lure him to a power plant, which will provide fodder for railing kills, steam and sparks, and explosions.
 
On the way there Funsch engages in some other exposition, this time about their advanced Multiverse weapons. Strangely, everything he describes they do is never seen in the film. They are regular pistols with little light doo dads on them. There is also the golf-ball-sized bomb, but even that isn’t all that unusual.
 
Finally Funsch gets to make his peace with Roedicker’s death by thanking a gas attendant played by Delroy Lindo. See, he’s the parallel of the Multiverse agent Delroy Lindo. Aside from the fact that this makes Funsch look like a complete idiot, it doesn’t make any sense at all. The gas attendant Roedicker wouldn’t have any idea what the hell Funsch was talking about.
 
Luckily, the one thing they got right in this film, he doesn’t and just stares at Funsch and Gabe.
 
They speed off towards the power plant.
 
(* Jim insert Star Trek Kirk Fight Music Here)
 
Gabriel Yu Law arrives at the Power Plant and throws Funsch over the railing, but he doesn’t die. By now Gabe has had enough running, and now with the knowledge that he is about as strong as Gabriel, engages him in a combination of CGI and wire fu. It’s like about every third episode of classic Star Trek where Kirk and another guy in a yellow shirt did the fisticuffs thing, only this scene isn’t as good.
 
It’s strange because for a long time the fight is pretty much like any other action movie fisticuffs scene, but there are some subtle differences, even the simplest stunt, i.e. leaping over a railing, rely on wirework so it appears completely unbalanced and silly.
 
Accomplishing the feat of making Jet Li fight Jet Li is the digital insertion of Jet Li’s face on another guy’s body. It helps that he has NO FACIAL EXPRESSION so we won’t be fooled into thinking there’s a fake Jet Li around somewhere. Differentiating them is easy now, Gabriel strips the top of his jumpsuit revealing a gray undershirt. So now we know which Jet Li is the evil one, and which Jet Li is the good one. Of course Funsch has no idea which is which because he’s still struggling up the myriad of M.C. Escheresque steps leading to the fight. Other trick used to convince us that there are two Jet Li’s in The One is that Jet Li spends a lot of time kicking the shit out of a guy with black hair and his back to the camera. It’s an old trick really, and it works okay, I guess.
 
Gabriel sets off a little bomb as Gabe and Funsch scramble to safety beneath the machinery of the power plant. Much smoke and fire obscures the proceedings. Shots are fired, and the wormhole opens. Funsch, Gabe, and Gabriel are whisked off to the landing pad at Multiverse central.
 
One of the Jet Li’s wakes up enough to point to the other Jet Li and say, “he’s the one...” So, dutifully, the guards grab that Jet Li and strap him into a chair for transport to the penal colony.
 
Funsch staggers to his feet and sees the white wedding band mark on Gabe’s finger. He realizes that the other Yu Law is the evil one and has him collected by the security guards. Now why in the hell doesn’t Yu Law just smash his way out of the security guards hands? He is, after all, super powered. I guess it only works selectively.
 
The warden tells Funsch to send Gabe to “the place where all the other duplicates go” so he can live out his life in peace. Funsch passionately explains that Gabe was instrumental in helping to catch the evil Yu Law. The warden is unmoved. So Funsch shoves the technician aside and declares that he’ll do the transporting.
 
Uh... okay, no one catches on to this...
 
He sends Gabe to one of the other alternate Earths where LA is the “cleanest city in America” so he can rescue his parallel dog and meet the parallel Carla Gugino in a vet’s office.
 
Meanwhile, Gabriel is transported to the penal colony where he starts a fights with the other inmates and makes a silly pronouncement that he’s come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, but he’s all out of bubblegum, or something equally stupid.
 
The camera pans back as thousands of prisoners clamor up a pyramid structure to get to Yu Law and beat his scrawny wire-work/CGI using ass.
 
End movie.
 
There is just so much wrong with this. I have a weird feeling that this was meant to be a television series and that no one would pony up the cash to Morgan and Wong to make a decent pilot, because it has a central idea well suited to a long story arc. Instead they made 90 minutes of crap.
 
As recent economic downturns have impacted my DVD purchasing/renting ability, I watched The One on television. The DVD, according to the all knowing mind of the IMDB, contains a commentary track by James Wong, a making of featurette, and the animatics used to digitally insert low-res versions of Jet Li into this crap film (yes, I’m kidding I know what animatics are).
 
According to the same site, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) was supposed to star in this and I can only imagine how much better it could have been had he actually made the film. Instead he went on to make The Mummy Returns (crap).
 
This is The One to be avoided.