Jet Li has joined the dubious ranks of those martial arts stars playing opposite themselves in a film -- including Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme. But instead of playing a long-lost twin brother to himself as in the other films, Li's actually himself squared -- another version of Jet from a different parallel "universe." That's right: Only Jet Li can kick Jet Li's ass.
James Wong and Glen Morgan, the guys who brought us the cheesy but mildly entertaining Final Destination (as well as the wonderfully gruesome X-Files episode "Home"), flex their sci-fi/kung fu action muscles with The One. With Jet Li on board, the action side is in great shape. Unfortunately, they come up pretty emaciated on the sci-fi front.
The biggest problem is that The One's script is just awful -- from premise to storyline to dialogue. The premise -- which is spoon-fed to the audience via narration before the opening credits -- explains that many versions of us live in alternate universes that make up the "multiverse." When one of our versions dies, the energy between all our selves is divvied up.
To take advantage of this, Yulaw (Jet Li) has come up with the evil plot to travel through dimensional wormholes to other universes to kill off all his other selves. As each one dies -- as he puts it in the most broken of English -- he can "feel myself growing faster, stronger, smarter." Hot on his trail are two literal time cops (Delroy Lindo and Jason Statham of Snatch). T hey must stop him from killing the last version of himself (an L.A. cop named Gabe) which would make Yulaw "the one."
Believe it or not, the story plays out even worse than it sounds -- full of holes and questionable logic. Never mind the fact that the ridiculous number of movie clichés included here -- even the suspenseful searching of a garage where a teetering lamp turns out to only be a cat. But if you really want clichés, look to the dialogue where you'll see every line coming a mile away. In the final fight scene between the two Jets, the bad Jet delivers quite an old groaner: "There can only be one."
The acting is also pretty dismal, especially poor Statham, who was so much fun as the hapless boxing promoter Turkish in Snatch, mired here in a laughable role and an absurd New York accent. Jet Li's career may be the only one to get a boost, mainly since most of his role revolves around a handful of awesome fight sequences.
Nearly as impressive as Li's moves are the special effects that give already incredible fights extra voltage. The filmmakers take the Matrix slow-mo bullet thing a few steps further, almost to the point of abuse. But, man, is it cool to watch. And, scenes exhibiting Li's superhuman strength -- especially one where he picks up a police motorcycle with one hand and slams it down on a cop like a trash can lid -- are equally visually fun.
However, much beyond that FX eye candy and an occasional clever joke related to inter-dimensional travel (like a jab at one universe which has a President Gore), there's not much substance to The One. But I've got to give the filmmakers props as well as an extra half star just on the basis that they cast American Movie's Mark Borchardt in a minor role. Glad to see that guy's getting some work.
One Jet to rule them all.