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The One (James Wong) 2001

Jet Li, the star of The One, seems to have found a larger niche in American than most HK action hero imports. He seems able to open films based solely on his name, which seems to prove that the kung-fu genreís success here in the states is not just limited to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Still, his latest film, which he turned down a role in The Matrix 2 to do, doesnít nearly qualify as one of his best. Itís a harmless enough action/sci-fi film (with a kid-friendly PG-13 rating), but itís fairly unambitious. Liís fight scenes are exciting, as always, but they are accentuated by a Matrix-style bullet time here. Liís character, who teleports through a multiverse to eliminate his equivalents in each world, has superhuman powers, so when he bashes an enemy, they fly across the screen even faster than usual.  There is a pair of space and time-cops that are on his tail, trying to stop him from killing his final counterpart. Apparently, if he manages to kill all 125 of his clones (why 125? I have no clue either) the universe will collapse upon itself, or some such disaster. Sadly, we get only glimpses of most of the alternate universes. One, humorously, features a blonde Jet Li, named Sven. Itís unfortunate that the film doesnít escalate into the dimension-hopping extravaganza that the similarly themed Waxwork 2: Lost in Time or Monsters Inc.

Even though most of the action is bound to our world, itís not a realistic movie by any means. Li picks up motorcycles like theyíre made of Styrofoam, and tosses people like theyíre featherweight. The inevitable Li versus Li battle isnít quite as entertaining or well-choreographed as one might hope, but its abundance of particle effects and warehouse setting make it feel like a videogame. At the end of the film, Jet Li yells, ďIím no oneís bitch!Ē That seems true enough. He kicks a good amount of ass in the film, but heís certainly no Oscar contender. He seldom speaks more than one or two lines consecutively. His costars (Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, and Jason Statham minus a British accent) are made to pick up the slack, but none of them are particularly great actors. Itís not that I expect great dramatic moments in a picture like this, but I at least enjoy acting thatís solid enough to cut down the level of phoniness in the film a tad. Here, itís never less than fully exposed as an arcade game. Still, it doesnít really pretend to be anything more, and thereís something comforting in that.

**

11/05/01

Jeremy Heilman