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The One

Starring Jet Li; Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Stratham
Screenplay by Glen Morgan and James Wong
Directed by James Wong

IN SHORT: "one" is about right. [Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, drug and sexual content. 87 minutes]

You can let testosterone fueled imaginations run wild and mix 'em with killer kung fu action and a healthy dose of special effects inspired by The Matrix and it still isn't going to do a damned bit of good if you don't develop the story or let the visual gimmicks get in the way of telling what little story there is to tell. That's what is wrong with The One, in which Jet Li decides to shoulder both good and bad guy roles in a movie whose very last scene makes all that has come before irrelevant and unnecessary.

The story idea is explained in a voiceover as the movie starts: There is not One Universe, there are many of them -- by our count, 125 -- and (you) exists in every single one of them, with minor changes. Technology exists to move between universes, but it is dangerous and illegal and the MultiVerse Bureau of Investigation exists to make sure it doesn't happen.

Except, of course, it does. Gabriel Yulaw (Jet Li) was a MultiVerse Agent who, in the course of his normal duties, accidentally killed one of his duplicate Selfs. (We'll call him the Yulaw of Earth-2.) What he discovered was that, post killing, he got stronger and faster and smarter and all that $6 Million Dollar Man stuff without the capital expenditure. Yulaw went rogue, bouncing from Universe to Universe, killing off his duplicates one by one and turning himself into some sort of evil superman. Yulaw is pursued by his former MBI Partner Harry Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and new Agent Ethan Funsch (Jason Statham). As our story begins there are only two alternates left; blink and there is only one, a sheriff in Los Angeles named Gabe (aka the Yulaw of Earth-1). He's a good guy because he found love and Balance in the person of T.K. (Carla Gugino) for the same reason that Yulaw isn't (that's Gugino in a red wig as the moll he's manipulated, earlier in the film). If Yulaw kills Gabe, the Universe could die or Yulaw could become a God. Kingdom Come for real. No one really knows.

But, come on, all that counts is getting to the fighting. That would be all well and good (and that's all the audience we sat with cared about) except for the fact that when you use super slow motion to imply speed, as in almost every Matrix type effect, and then kick back into normal or even speeded up action, it's impossible to follow. For every "ooo" as a body goes flying across the Freeway, there's a "what the hell is going on here?" moment.

Yeah, we know we didn't understand The Matrix either. There, there was enough gobbledygook that we sensed that someone thought long and hard about the backstory of the film. No one did that here. If we were fourteen and interested solely in watching the fighting, The One would still be a rental, because the story is woefully underdeveloped and the visuals are confusing as hell (and how's this for irony -- Hades is one of the settings in the film!).

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The One, he would have paid . . .


For the couple of "ooo" moments that we did get.

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