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James Wong
Jet Li, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham, James Morrison
Glen Morgan, James Wong

Stealing the power of the universes one by one.
Box Office:
Budget $49 million. Opening weekend $19.112 million on 2894 screens. Domestic gross $43.905 million.
Rated PG-13 for intense action violence and some language.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $27.99
Release Date: 3/5/2002

• Audio Commentary With Writer/Director James Wong, Editor James Coblentz, Director of Photography Robert McLachlan, and Production Designer Daniel Snyder
• ďJet Li Is the OneĒ Featurette
• ďMultiverses Create the OneĒ Featurette
• ďAbout FaceĒ Featurette
• ďThe Many Faces of Jet LiĒ Featurette
• Animatic Comparison
• Theatrical Trailer
• Filmographies
• Production Notes


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The One (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Certain parties who work on this website seem to feel the DVD-buying public has an insatiable appetite for all things Jet Li. Certain parties put pressure on other parties - namely me - to make sure that we cover all things Jet Li. Certain parties were happy to do this for a while, since those parties once thought he seemed like an exciting and compelling performer.

The latter party changed his mind about that, however. Why? Flicks like Romeo Must Die and Kiss of the Dragon, thatís why. In a small part, Li impressed me in 1998ís Lethal Weapon 4, but with more time on screen, heís done nothing but leave me uninterested in the other movies.

As such, I resisted the call of certain parties for me to review Liís latest extravaganza, The One. If anything, this flick seemed the least appealing of the bunch; Iím not eager to watch one Li, but he played multiple roles in this movie.

Like the good little soldier I am, I went ahead and checked out The One anyway. Unfortunately, the experience was just as unstimulating as I expected. As Iíll explain, the movie actually had a lot of potential, but the end result was a dud.

At the start of The One, we learn that there are multiple universes, and different versions of ourselves exist in each one. In some of these places, theyíve learned how to jump between universes, and a particular inhabitant named Yulaw (Li) tries to use that for his own personal advantage. By accident, he discovers that when another version of himself dies, that personís energy splits among the remaining editions. As such, he hops from realm to realm and eventually offs 123 of the 125 possible renditions.

The Multiverse Police remain on his tail for many of these, as represented by agents Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham). Frankly, with 123 failures to date, Iím not sure why anyone thinks the 124th - and final - one will be any different, but since horrible ramifications could occur if Yulaw eliminates the final other him, they need to try. No one knows what might happen, but some fear the end of all universes.

So the cops head after Yulaw as he attempts to take down his last remaining ďbrotherĒ, Gabe (Li again). Basically the remainder of the film follows this chase and its ensuing battles. Yulaw goes after Gabe, Gabe goes after Yulaw, and thatís about it.

That last factor really provides the main reason The One exists: filmmakers love the novelty of showing a performer interact with him/herself. Didnít this get old with The Patty Duke Show? Actually, I think Jean-Claude Van Damme had more of an influence over The One. He made the only other ďdude kicks his own assĒ movie I can recall - 1991ís Double Impact - and I thought the Multiverse police owed a definite debt to his 1994 opus, Timecop.

Interestingly, The One was originally intended as a vehicle for wrestling superstar The Rock, but he elected to do Scorpion King instead. Would this film have been more compelling with the Steroid King at the fore? Perhaps, for some of my complaints about it related to Liís lack of charisma. While I donít like wrestling at all, I must admit The Rock offers a bright and compelling character, while Li seems totally devoid of any personality. Perhaps he comes across as livelier in his Asian films - the language difficulties may make it more difficult for him to seem natural and engaging - but I get the feeling heís just a dull guy.

The remaining cast includes some good performers, but they donít get to do very much to stand out from the crowd. Really, the whole point of the exercise is for the gimmick of the Li versus Li fighting, and I suppose thatís enough for some people. Personally, those scenes didnít do a lot for me. Li definitely is an impressive martial artists, but the staging of the fights seemed too flashy and glitzy for my liking. It didnít help that the techniques used to hide Liís doubles made the scenes awkwardly shot at times.

Director James Wong shows little inventiveness during the film. The action scenes invariably incorporated aggressive rock music and gimmicks like ďbullet timeĒ and wire work that are increasingly becoming tiresome. The result feels very derivative and stale, as Wong has little new to introduce to the genre.

This seems especially sad because at its heart, The One actually offers a pretty cool story. Itís a clever concept that could have been very compelling. Unfortunately, as executed, itís bland and lifeless. As filmed, The One just seems like one long missed opportunity.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio A- / Bonus B

The One appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Overall, the movie looked terrific, with only a couple of small issues to lower my grade.

Sharpness consistently appeared excellent. At all times, the picture offered solid clarity and delineation, as I noticed no signs of any soft or fuzzy sequences. Jagged edges and moirť effects presented no problems, but I did discern some minor edge enhancement at times. In regard to print flaws, I saw a smidgen of grain at times, but otherwise the image remained clean and fresh.

Like many sci-fi films of this sort, The One featured a generally subdued palette. The film favored cool, metallic blues and didnít often offer many brighter tones. Nonetheless, the various tones seemed well reproduced and clear, and I detected no problems related to noise, bleeding or other issues. Black levels came across as deep and rich, while shadow detail was clear and appropriately heavy. Ultimately, The One fell short of ďAĒ level, but it still gave us a consistently strong visual experience.

Even better was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The One. I expected an active mix and thatís what it provided. All five channels received a nice workout, as the track showed solid stereo music in the front as well as a compelling and involving environment. Effects seemed well delineated and accurately placed within the spectrum, and they moved cleanly and smoothly from speaker to speaker. The surrounds added reinforcement of the music and quite a lot of action elements; especially cool was the ďtwisterĒ effect during the wormhole bits.

Audio quality was also very good. Some lines seemed awkwardly dubbed and sounded a bit flat, but for the most part, speech was distinct and natural, and I detected no problems related to intelligibility. Music was bright and vibrant and showed positive fidelity and clarity. Effects came across as clear and accurate, and they also packed a nice punch when appropriate. Bass response seemed deep and tight, with no boominess. Overall, The One provided a loud, active and engaging soundtrack that worked well for the movie.

On this special edition release of The One, we discover a number of supplements. These begin with an audio commentary from writer/director James Wong, production designer David Snyder, editor Jim Coblentz and cinematographer Robert McLachlan. All four were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Though a little dry at times, as a whole I thought they offered a reasonably informative and interesting piece.

The commentary places Wong and Snyder in the right speaker with McLachlan and Coblentz on the left. This method helps us identify the speakers since they all have somewhat similar sounding voices. They provide a lot of good information through this track, with some emphasis on technical issues like effects, sets and cinematography, but not to the exclusion of all else. In addition, they go over topics like changes made due to test audiences or MPAA requirements to give the movie a ďPG-13Ē plus other alterations made when the star veered from the Rock to Li. This wasnít a classic commentary, but I felt it added to my appreciation of the film and it seemed enjoyable.

After this we find a series of featurettes. Jet Li Is The One sounds like itíll concentrate solely on the star, but instead it provides a general look at the film. The 13-minute and 35-second program includes comments from director Wong, actors Li, Carla Gugino, and Jason Statham, writer/producer Glen Morgan, stunt coordinator Gary Hymes, action choreographer Corey Yuen, and executive producer Lata Ryan. For the most part it stayed in the realm of the fluffy promotional piece - everyone talked about how great everyone else was - but a few decent details emerged along the way. Most amusing was Liís apparent obsession with his hair. Overall, this was an average featurette.

Next comes Multiverses Create the One, an 18-minute and 45-second program that focuses on special effects and fight choreography. For the most part, it dispense with the film clips we saw in the prior program, as it mainly offers footage from the set as well as interviews with Wong, Li, Hymes, Yuen, Morgan, and visual effects supervisor Eric Durst. This show seems more useful than its predecessor does since it concentrates more fully on the movie and leaves out the fluff. It gives us a quick but generally solid look at the two realms; I canít call it anything special, but it merits a screening.

In About Face, we learn how Liís face was placed on his doubles. The five-minute and 55-second program features behind the scenes footage and interviews with Li, Morgan, Wong, Yuen and Durst as they discuss the various methods of face replacement they used. The program provides a nice look at this subject, especially since it offers some ďbefore and afterĒ shots.

The Many Faces of Jet Li gives us a more humorous piece. During the film, we briefly see images of the various versions of Li strewn through the different universes, and this two-minute and 2-second piece shows all of them as well as some that donít appear in the movie. Itís useful for those who want a better look at the varying guises of Li.

Another short piece appears as a 75-second Animatic Comparison. This displays one scene from the film - the motorcycle fight - with the final movie shots on the top half of the screen and the animatics on the bottom. The latter consist of some cheap stop-motion animation and also some rough computer work. Itís fun but insubstantial.

Lastly, we get some of the usual suspects. Thereís the filmís theatrical trailer as well as Filmographies for director Wong and actors Li, Gugino, Statham and Delroy Lindo. In addition, the DVDís booklet provides some short but decent Production Notes.

Chalk up The One as a disappointment. Despite a clever and interesting take on some sci-fi staples, the movie comes across as little more than another aggressively bland and derivative piece of work. From Jet Liís flat acting to the tired incorporation of overused visual and sonic techniques, the film offers little to make it entertaining. The DVD provides very good picture and sound plus a mix of fairly nice supplements. Dedicated Jet Li fans will probably be happy with this set, but others should take a pass on it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3684 Stars Number of Votes: 38
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