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With: Jet Li, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham, James Morrison, Dylan Bruno, Archie Kao, Richard Steinmetz, Steve Rankin, Tucker Smallwood, Harriet Sansom Harris, David Keats, Dean Norris, Ron Zimmerman, Darin Morgan
Written by: Glen Morgan, James Wong
Directed by: James Wong
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense action violence and some language
Running Time: 87
Date: 11/02/2001

The One (2001)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'One' in a Million

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'm happy to report that Jet Li's fourth American film crosses the finish line as far and away the best of them. It's still no masterpiece, and still a good distance from Swordsman II and Once Upon a Time in China, but at least we're making progress.

The reason The One works so well is that it's based on an honest-to-goodness idea, something that cannot be said for Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die or Kiss of the Dragon. Moreover, The One should actually be categorized as a sci-fi rather than a kung-fu film. It's the kind of film Schwarzenegger or Stallone or Wesley Snipes or Jean-Claude Van Damme might have found themselves involved in, had Li not taken the lead role. (It's on the level of Demolition Man.)

And though Li's English is still on the shaky side, his considerable charm and screen presence fills in the blanks nicely.

Li plays two roles, Yulaw and Gabriel. Yulaw is a mad killer from another dimension. He's discovered that by traveling to alternate universes and killing off his "doubles," he can increase his own strength and power. (The premise: Each person shares a common thread of power with all his or her dimensional counterparts.) So far he's killed 123 Jet Lis in other dimensions, and the only one left is Gabriel, who lives in our dimension.

Gabriel is an L.A. cop, happily married to the lovely T.K. (Carla Gugino). He's in the middle of transferring a prisoner when Yulaw arrives, guns blazing. Gabriel is too shocked at seeing his double to properly defend himself, and almost buys the farm. Fortunately, a couple of interdimensional police, Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham), follow him and lend a hand in stopping him.

The big problem is that no one's sure what will happen if either one of the Jet Lis dies: The universe could collapse in upon itself, or the last remaining Li could become some kind of god. Even Roedecker and Funsch decide not to take any chances and develop a plan to kill them both.

The fight scenes are choreographed by Cory Yuen, who's worked with Li countless times in both Hong Kong and American films. The climax -- with the two Lis fighting each other in a factory, complete with glowing sparks raining down on the combatants -- is pretty spectacular.

Another scene has Yulaw beating up a couple of cops by swinging their motorcycles (!) around like nunchaku. Though these good scenes come few and far between, and they don't stand up to Li's all-time best work, they're certainly a good deal better than the bland fights in Kiss of the Dragon.

Like The Terminator, The One stays afloat by introducing an interesting sci-fi idea whose main job is to set up a good 90-minute chase. Theoretically, when the chase itself falters, the story is still there to pick up the slack.

Director James Wong, who wrote and directed several episodes of "The X-Files," is used to dealing with ideas, and you can sense him working hard to keep things together. Unfortunately, the movie rushes roughly through the plot and fails to fully explore all its possible ramifications (The Terminator used its idea much better).

Though interdimensional travel is a pretty radical science fiction idea, one scene shows an even more bizarre concept: a television news broadcast from an alternate earth showing George W. Bush outlining his universal health care plan to Congress. Talk about science fiction!

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