Martial arts master Jet Li is a police officer who comes face-to-face with his villainous doppelganger escaped from a parallel universe in The Matrix meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Timecop.
Multiverses, black holes, multi-dimensional travel and a skyrocketing body count--allow me to try to make sense of it. Each individual has a representation of him or herself in 125 different universes, which make up the Multiverse. Rogue Multiverse agent Yulaw (Jet Li) was assigned to monitor these universes, but you-know-what hit the proverbial fan when he began to eliminate the other versions of himself in the alternate universes in order to become The One. With each version of himself he destroyed, Yulaw released its energy and strength, rendering the remaining versions smarter, faster and more powerful. One hundred and twenty three kills later, one man, Gabe (also Li), stands between Yulaw and his ultimate desire to be The One. Meanwhile a pair of mismatched Multiverse agents, Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham), is under orders to bring Yulaw back alive.
This project was originally slated for The Rock, who opted instead to film The Mummy Returns. ''With The Rock, you didn't have to write a lot of dialogue. With Li, it's even less,'' writer Glen Morgan has gone on record as saying. When Li signed on, the writers took out some of the hardcore sci-fi scenes and added more fight sequences. Thus the dramatic acting, which was certainly minimal to begin with, isn't really part of the plot. Jet Li's facial expressions are enough to tell the ''bad'' Yulaw from the ''good'' Gabe. Lindo's Roedecker is the only character with any meat on its bones, but Lindo, as well as the chip-on-his-shoulder Funsch and the attractive Carla Gugino as Gabe's wife are mere window dressing for Li's high-flying martial arts act.
Director James Wong borrows heavily from The Matrix--though that's not a bad thing. The use of stunt doubles, super-slow-mo imaging and flying rigs to create the effect of Li fighting himself is as believable as it is ingenious. (It took a month to shoot the final scene, the film's climax.) Unfortunately, though, the effects wear thin pretty quickly. And to quote my wife, ''This movie feels like a video game.'' Ever astute, my wife is correct: The One has endless marketing potential as a video game. But as slick as the set designs and special effects are, they don't cover for the lack of plot or character development. Wong does use a killer techno-metal soundtrack--unfortunately it outpaces and outperforms the action in the film.
This movie makes no bones about what it is: an 80-minute martial arts romp that's pretty painless to sit through. But like any light trifle, you will have forgotten it once it has gone.