The One

Dir: James Wong. US. 2001. 80mins.

The One offers a double dose of Asian martial arts star Jet Li but

shortchanges its audience in just about every other department. After the

promising box office showings in the US of last year's Romeo Must Die ($56m) and this past summer's Kiss Of The Dragon ($37m), this action/sci-fi video game of a movie will do little to further advance Li's Hollywood career. Lack of competition for young male filmgoers may, however, allow for a moderate US opening, while Li's star power should ensure at least middling results in some international territories.

The set-up suggests story possibilities apparently well-suited to

writer-director James Wong and writer-producer Glen Morgan, Emmy nominees for their script work on The X-Files and the team behind New Line's surprise 2000 theatrical hit Final Destination. Li's Yulaw is a former agent with the

Multiverse Bureau of Investigation, the police force for a series of parallel

universes connected, intermittently, by wormholes in space. Jumping from

one universe to the another, Yulaw is trying to murder all his alter-egos so

he can absorb their life-force and become "The One". Gabe - also played by Li

- is Yulaw's last surviving counterpart, a tough but sweet-natured Los Angeles cop living in a universe very much like our own. Trailing Yulaw through the wormholes are Multiverse Bureau agents Roedecker (Lindo) and Funsch (Statham, from Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels).

The sci-fi scenario is only really explored, however, during the film's first

act, as Yulaw moves from universe to universe (the worlds are differentiated

by some cute touches of political commentary). Once Yulaw is in Gabe's

universe, the film becomes a more straightforward chase, with only the odd

moment of mistaken identity inciting genuine tension.

Strong effects and action sequences might have made up for the narrative

limitations, but here the effects, many of them reminiscent of The Matrix,

are mostly just adequate. The fight scenes - choreographed by Hong Kong

action veteran Corey Yuen, who has worked on all of Li's US films - are

curiously anaemic and lacking in the usual martial arts elegance. Even the

climactic confrontation between Li-as-Yulaw and Li-as-Gabe fails to generate

much excitement.

The performances are equally disappointing (although the cliched dialogue does not do the actors any favours). Li has his moments as the evil Yulaw but his presence fades when he portrays nice-guy Gabe. Gugino (from Spy Kids) gets little to do as Gabe's wife and Lindo's character is killed off too early on to make much of a mark. Statham drops his Cockney accent and does a none too convincing impersonation of a poor man's Bruce Willis.

Prod cosRevolution Studios, Hard Eight Pictures.

US distColumbia Pictures

Int'l Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International

ProdsGlen Morgan, Steven Chasman.

Exec prodsLata Ryan, Charles Newirth, Todd Garner, Greg Silverman.

CinematographyRobert McLachlan.

Prod desDavid L Snyder.

EdJames Coblentz.

MusicTrevor Rabin

Main castJet Li, Delroy Lindo, Carla Gugino, Jason Stratham