Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Night Fu Review: The One

The One ★ ½
I was prepared to be wowed, but sadly I wasn't.

There was a lot of potential awesome going for The One (2001)—Jet Li, Jason Statham, several more Jet Li multiverse alternate reality clones… And yet it fell flat.

Let's back up, though. Here is what the movie's about, in a nutshell. It's a biggish budget sci-fi action flick, and Jet Li plays the bad guy, a dude who travels through worm holes to assassinate his many other iterations in alternate universes, thus gaining himself superhuman powers en route to becoming The One, a majorly evil unstoppable bad-ass. He also plays the good guy, a mild-mannered martial arts enthusiast cop version of himself, and the final guy the evil Jet Li has to kill to become The One. Jason Statham—never shirtless and with far too much hair on his head for my taste—plays an inter-universal agent, trying to help the good guy and stop the evil guy.

The unbilled star of this movie, for better or worse, was the year it was made—2001. It comes through in the pervasively nouveau cock-rockish post-Marilyn Manson soundtrack, the Matrix-wannabe effects (and affects), in the sheer colorization and cinematography of the thing. Heck, maybe it just wasn't meant to be seen by a viewer for the first time in 2011. But it's dated.

The major issue for me was that this movie lacked the charisma of a more over-the-top, pure martial arts romp (i.e., the original Drunken Master or Ong Bak). Its choreography was solid, stunts decent, star undoubtedly talented…but that magical, borderline wackiness of a true classic was missing, replaced with unconvincing slow-down/speed-up special effects. (In my snotty opinion, a good Kung Fu movie's wow-factor comes from the actors' physicality—the magic is in the "holy shit, did you see that dude flip?" moments, not the "holy shit, did you see that CGI?" moments.) It also could have used a lot more cheek and humor—Li and Statham both have it in them, but sadly, the writers apparently did not.

But I'm being mean, and asking it to be something it never promised it was. I mean, look at the cover—it's clearly at least 50% sci-fi. So here are some pluses to balance out the criticisms. Cool premise. Fast paced. Likable supporting heroine character. Quality stunt double action in the scenes where Li battles himself. Some innovative fight scenes and settings (in addition to some really tired ones). If you like nouveau cock-rock, the perfect soundtrack. An ending that's both sweet and utterly schlocky, utterly Hollywood. But I'm afraid that's about it. Tons of potential, but in the end, a limp-yet-noisy rehash.

Now behold the trailer:

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