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The One (2001)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/31/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/22/2009

Some successful movies take us by surprise, while others seem like a good idea from the get-go. The One had to have looked good on paper. Jet Li had made a name for himself in Hong Kong martial arts films. In 1998, he made his American movie debut in Lethal Weapon 4, despite the fact that he spoke very little English. With this, combined with the increased exposure of his foreign films, his popularity was growing in the U.S. Directing/Writing/Producing team James Wong and Glen Morgan had gained experience on The X-Files and their feature film debut Final Destination proved to be one of the best horror films of the new millennium. Would all of this promise pay off in The One?

The One introduces us to the idea of multiverses -- multiple parallel dimensions which often resemble one another, but have slight differences. One such universe has perfected the technology of jumping from one dimension to another. Gabriel Yulaw (Jet Li) was once charged with protecting these portals, but he is now journeying from one universe to another, murdering the other versions of himself. Whenever he kills one of these mirror images, he grows more powerful. Yulaw has now come to our universe to kill his last double, Los Angeles police officer Gabe Law (also played by Li), despite the fact that he's being pursued by two agents from his universe, Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham). Law and Yulaw square off against one another in a police station and, one Law gets over his initial shock, the chase is on. Unfortunately, Gabe's colleagues don't know this his twin has come to town, and they now want to question him for murder. Gabe must protect himself from Yulaw and clear his name.

Except for the extremely cerebral variety, science-fiction films have always featured some level of action. But, in the 1980s, the sci-fi/action film really came into begin with titles such as The Terminator, RoboCop, and Total Recall. These movies took a fairly straight-ahead science-fiction plot and melded it with adrenaline-fueled scenes of violence and mayhem. The One falls squarely into this genre, as it combines the ideas of parallel dimensions, worm holes, and various incarnations of one being, and melds it with gunfights, car chases, and, of course with Jet Li presents, lots of martial arts.

The movie's best concept is the idea that Gabriel Yulaw has absorbed the energy of his fallen doubles and is thus very powerful. Wong and Morgan have decided to illustrate this by having Yulaw move much faster than those around him and possess great strength. Coming just two years after The Matrix, The One makes the most of bullet-time like effects, as Yulaw can punch someone and have them hang in the air while he moves on to striking someone else. The fight-scenes featuring these effects are quite cool and are the highlight of the film.

However, there's something about The One which is simply "off" and it's difficult to put a finger on exactly what it is. Again, the film's main premise is a good one and some of the action scenes are very impressive. The film's main problem is that the final fight scene goes on for too long. Sure, there must have been people who paid good money simply to see Jet-Li fight Jet-Li, but this scene drags. (I was also annoyed by the fact that Law and Yulaw were dressed the same at the beginning of the fight, but Yulaw just happens to take off the top part of his jumpsuit so that the audience would know who was who.) The rest of the film's issues lie with the story. The pure sci-fi ideas in the screenplay are sullied by the trite mistaken identity plot which manifests half-way through the film. There is no character development with Roedecker and Funsch and we're just asked to take it for granted that these are some bad mo-fos from another dimension.

Despite The One's flaws, one must commend Morgan and Wong for at least trying something a little different. Traditionally, martial arts films are set in the present, or more often in Hong Kong, the past. Placing one in a slightly futuristic world was a gamble which could have paid off if the script had been tweaked a little more. As it is, you'll probably just watch this The One time and then forget it.

The One dematerializes on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is sharp and mostly clear, although there is some very mild grain visible throughout the film. There are no defects from the source material. The transfer features good colors and the image is never overly dark or bright. While the depth and level of detail are certainly better than DVD, they don't measure up to some other Blu-rays which we've seen. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good, and show a nice level of detail during the action scenes. The subwoofer effects on this track are impressive, bringing a distinct low rumble to many scenes. The surround sound effects are somewhat subtle up until the finale. There, they really kick in and help to amp up this long scene.

The One Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Director James Wong, Production Designer David Snyder, Director of Photography Robert McLachlan, and Editor James Coblentz.
"Jet Li is The One" (14 minutes) is a making of featurette which offers comments from Wong, Morgan, and the cast. We learn that The Rock was originally cast in the film. There is an overview of the story and an examination of the cast and characters. Of course, there is a look at the martial arts. "Multiverses Create The One" (19 minutes) is an extended look at the fight scenes, the use of wire-work, CGI, and the work involved for Jet Li to be able to fight himself. "About Face" (6 minutes) shows how the finale was created where two Jet Lis are on-screen. "The Many Faces of Jet Li" (2 minutes) is a montage showing Li in his various costumes to portray the dozens of Laws from the different universes. "Animatic Comparison" (1 minute) gives a side-by-side comparison of one of the action scenes with a crude computer mock-up (which looks like action figures) of the scene.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long