The One (Blu-ray)

A sporadically cool, but mostly-hokey sci-fi actioner.

Evidently we’re inhabiting just one universe in a multiverse, and there are copies of each of us in these alternate universes. Policing the multiverse is a squad of totally ineffective intra-dimensional crime fighters, one of whom, a fella named Yulaw (Li), realized that if you kill your doppelgangers you get an energy boost or something. So he goes on a killing spree, hoping to suck up all that galactic plasma to become a superman.

His last hit is a police officer named Gabe (also played by Jet Li). But with a pair of agents on his tail (Delroy Lindo and Jason Statham) constantly gum up the works, the execution doesn’t go as planned and all of this leads up to the inevitable Jet Li versus Jet Li showdown.

When I was deep in the clutches of Jet Li fever back in the day I thought this effort was pretty cool. I mean, dig it, he punches guys in slow motion, sandwiches a cop using dual-wielded police motorcycles, dodges bullets, runs 50 mph and so on and so forth. But even then, ensconced as I was by Li’s grand Western film swing, I felt there was something…off about The One.

For one, the mythology is corny, siphoning plot elements from Highlander, Timecop and The Parent Trap. The multiverse angle is goofy and according to Yulaw’s body count there are only 120-something universes anyway, which strikes me as fairly underwhelming. Really, this dopey construct exists solely as a mechanism to pit its star against himself in a big fight scene and from the moment the voiceover at the beginning informs us about the multiverse thing it is apparent that all of this has one endpoint.

Unfortunately, like the rest of the action, this centerpiece brouhaha is overblown and sterile. Jet Li taking on a CGI-assisted version of himself sounds semi-awesome on paper, but the execution is flat, a surprise considering Li’s obvious gifts and the fact that Cory Yuen had a hand in the fight choreography. Detracting from the tension is the fact that Li’s approach to villainy is a hard sell. His Yulaw sneers a lot and kills some people that are apparently important to our heroes, but he doesn’t do anything else to make him a memorable heavy, leading to a sense of apathy permeating the big showdown. Delroy Lindo tries hard to make the sci-fi gibberish sound believable — to middling results — and Jason Statham, sporting hair, which is jarring in itself, occupies the unenviable exposition role. Carla Gugino is pretty.

Good news to finish this review on, however: if The One does it for you, this Blu-ray disc will satisfy. The 2.40:1 HD upgrade offers a significant and noticeable improvement over its standard-def predecessor. The visual effects, details and color work all benefit from the upgrade, making The One a fine archive release. Sound comes courtesy of a strong Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. As lukewarm as my response to the film was, I have to confess a lot of mayhem goes down, giving the audio presentation plenty to do. It’s a robust, enveloping set-up, marred only by the hapless over-reliance on archaic nu-metal. Drowning Pool? Really? Extras are recycled from the DVD: commentary from director James Wong, featurettes on the making-of, highlighting the final fight scene, the visual effects and the mythology and an animatic comparison.

My fondness for this chopsocky sci-fi endeavor has dipped, but the Blu-ray looks and sounds great. Double-dipped extras disappoint.


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