Jet Li is such an amazing fighter, that no one but himself could ever be his equal. Apparently, he is also such a bad actor that its best if he only act with himself.
The One stars Jet Li as Law, and as Law, and as Law. Evil Law is a rogue cop from another universe, bent on traveling to every alternate universe and killing the alternate version of himself. He has done so123 times. And doing so has made him immensely powerful. Now, only Gabe Law (Good Law) stands between him and godhood. Unfortunately, the only real difference between Evil Law and Good Law is that Good Law tries not to kill people… and Evil Law is just a little bit insane. But that’s ok, since whoever made this film knew exactly what they were doing, and decided to go out of their way to avoid giving Jet Li dialogue. And what little bit he does choke out sounds so carefully practiced, I had to blink a few times to convince myself it hadn’t been dubbed. The really good news though, is that Jason Stathom, an actor who for some reason is strangely fun to watch, is moving up in the world. His last film was Ghost of Mars, John Carpenter’s latest abortive attempt at zombies on Mars. Stathom is cool, but he needs more screen time!
But The One isn’t a bad movie; It’s Jet Li’s acting that’s bad. That itself is no surprise. After all, Jet Li is an action star, not a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In action, The One kicks in early and fast with amazing effects and a kick ass sci-fi wrapper to encase them in. Those first few fight scenes, while clearly Matrix inspired, are in themselves simply breathtaking. I heard more than one audible “whoa” creep out from the collective audience voice… including my own.
However, after a lengthy and protracted introduction, albeit an exciting one, the film quickly falls flat. Its not for lack of trying, there is some attempt at drama and revenge. Noble goals, sacrifices for the common good, but none of it ever really goes anywhere. Subplots are forgotten and dead characters thrown by the wayside. Then, just in time for the big ending, Jet Li just goes to an empty warehouse to fight himself… in what can only be described as an episode of MTV’s Celebrity Death Match gone horribly wrong and missing any intrinsic humor. Instead of a big mind blowing spectacle, we are instead forced to watch an INCREDIBLY long and protracted battle in which Jet Li punches himself, gets back up, punches himself so more, and repeats. I’d swear it went on for 15 minutes. By the end I was bored stiff, and all the fruity sparklers and flames thrown in the background can’t make such an uncreative and un-inventive ending better.
The One comes in with a HUGE bang, but blows its load early. And while you’re off ready for the big climax, Jet Li is already in the kitchen making a sandwich and smoking a cigarette.