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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The One (2001)



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The worst of Jet Li's American films so far, The One is a work of astonishing banality, particularly considering the creativity of the premise. The idea is that there is not one universe but 125 parallel universes in which we all exist. The Jet Li of one universe discovers that if he kills himself in another universe, the energy of that self gets redistributed to the survivors. So he goes on a killing rampage, successfully killing 123 of his other selves and therefore has the strength and speed and intelligence of 62.5 of himself, if my calculations are correct. That leaves one other self to go, but he also has the strength and speed and intelligence of 62.5 of himself, although it becomes clear early on that this other self hasn't yet learned to utilize all that energy to greatest advantage.

Hot on the heels of the bad Jet Li are multiverse police, who need to stop him from potentially destroying all creation and also arrest him for the 123 counts of murder. Why they aren't also after him for the murders of the innumerable extras he has to mow through in the process of eliminating his other selves, I don't know.

Anyway, this premise is absurd, but I liked it for its potential. I can envision a movie that has a lot of fun playing with the paradoxes of the idea, and, let's face it, it's a great excuse to allow action heroes the ability to dodge bullets, throw motorcycles around, and jump to dizzying heights.

But The One is not this movie. Once it has established the rules of the game, it shifts into idiot action movie mode, dropping the ball on exploring the ideas and showing us nothing we haven't seen before, before, and before. The logical loopholes in the premise, which should be rendered irrelevant by an entertaining thrill ride (see The Matrix), are glaring instead. I kept wondering, if there are 125 of each person, but they have different personalities, pair up with different people, and die at different times, how can there always be 125 versions of each person when they are born? How come there aren't men among the elderly with the strength of 125? How come the evil Jet Li is so good with a gun that he can kill an extra without even looking but always misses those with speaking parts?

The movie becomes less and less inspired as it wears on, until finally it closes with an absurdly discordant final shot.