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  One, The Affirming UniquenessBuy this film here.
Year: 2001
Director: James Wong
Stars: Jet Li, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham, James Morrison, Dylan Bruno, Richard Steinmetz, Steve Rankin, Tucker Smallwood, Harriet Sansom Harris, David Keats, Dean Norris, Ron Zimmerman, Darin Morgan, Mark Borchardt, Joel Stoffer, Ashlyn Gere
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: There is a notorious criminal about to be executed tonight, and the guards arrive to escort him from his cell, but his universe is not quite what we would recognise. This is because there are infinite universes, together known as the multiverse, where various versions of people can exist independently of their other versions, utterly unaware of the alternatives. But what if there were some who were all too knowledgeable about the potential of the multiverse? What if there were someone who decided to exploit that for his own gain, killing his other selves to grow stronger by incredible degrees? What if that man was paying a visit to our universe - our world?

And what if that man were martial arts superstar Jet Li? Well, what about it? You might think from that premise, and with the brains behind some solid episodes of The X-Files on television and the Final Destination series at the movies, they would take advantage of the possibilities and truly go to town on them, but for the most part it appeared they only had the budget for two universes and the occasional glimpse of those alternate spaces, and besides, it was all a not-so-well concealed excuse for Li to start kicking bottom in a sci-fi context that was really a bit of a cheat. This was thanks to the film losing interest in its star beyond anything but having him deliver superpowered beatdowns.

You know how just about every science fiction TV show will have an evil double episode if it runs long enough? It may be lazy, but it gives the stars something else to do, let their hair down as a baddie, and somehow nobody complains "Gawd, not this old chestnut again!" despite it having been put into practice every bloody time a fantasy-based series is on the air. Anyway, imagine that in film form, hoping to cash in on that lucrative audience that made The Matrix a blockbuster hit and restless with the wait between sequels at the time this was released, only in actuality, a chance to exercise the visual effects team's ingenuity at presenting a punch-up between Li and Li.

If that was what you wanted, if that was all you wanted, from a Jet Li flick, then you would not be disappointed, but there was something curiously redundant in watching one of the finest exponents of big screen kung fu of his generation transformed into a human special effect. Once the evil incarnation, Gabriel Yulaw, had wound up in our world thanks to some technology the film can't be bothered to explain (you simply take it for granted), he sought out cop Gabe Law, his double here, and set about making his life a misery before his ultimate goal (his final destination, you might say) of killing him and taking his life force. Chasing after Yulaw were special agents Delroy Lindo and Jason Statham (doing his not-yet-perfected American accent), who did their best to stop the evildoer in his tracks.

They don't want to kill him, they merely wish to lock him up in a prison planet, but Yulaw has no such qualms about taking lives as he cuts down a swathe of the supporting cast to illustrate his viciousness. The trouble with that was, the characters were supposed to have trouble distinguishing between the good Li and bad Li, but you may have some trouble yourself, and not in a cleverly plotted way either: neither had enough of a personality to mark him out. And yet, every so often there would be a spot of ingenuity suggesting Wong and Morgan had the ability to break out of a generic action entry and take the concept by the scruff of the neck, such as when Yulaw starts batting policemen around with their own motorcycles. The One needed a lot more of that; you wondered what another Statham effort, Crank, would have looked like if they'd included parallel universes, and then pondered the missed opportunities for craziness this intermittently realises. A striking final shot, but too little too late. Music by Trebor Rabin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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