DVD - Image A Sound A Extras A
BD - Image A- Sound A- Extras A
starring Jet Li, Carla Gugino, Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham
screenplay by Glen Morgan & James Wong
directed by James Wong
by Walter Chaw The confused child of "Sliders" and Highlander, the latest attempt to translate Jet Li's appeal for an American audience is James Wong and Glen Morgan's asinine-but-breezy sci-fi actioner The One. Li is good cop Gabe, who, in a world of one-hundred-and-twenty-four parallel universes, discovers that he is one of two "Gabes" left. Li is also, in the great tradition of Twin Dragons and Double Trouble, evil universe-hopper Yulaw, who has discovered that each incarnation of himself he kills increases the strength and intelligence of his remaining selves. Blazing a trail of terror through 123 universes, Yulaw intends to become "the one" Jet Li: a super-genius killing machine.
Chasing Yulaw are buddy cops Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham), whose relationship is so familiar that without being articulated we understand that Roedecker, being older and black, is probably a few hours away from retirement and that Funsch, white and accented, is a dangerous psychopath incidentally on the right side of the law. Restricted from actually killing Yulaw by barely-articulated mumbo-jumbo about "balance" and "the fate of the multiversity" (and, in some part, by a PG-13 rating), Roedecker and Funsch comprise the dullest portions of a film that would be far better served by trying harder to mask its logical shortfalls. (If, for instance, Yulaw is fast enough to dodge bullets, why can he only run fifty-five miles or so an hour? Sorta like if E.T. can fly, why doesn't he fly towards his spaceship in the prologue?) There are more holes in The One than an aerated lawn.
The chief problem of the picture, however, is its feckless squandering of everything that might be interesting or amusing about an innocent schlep discovering one day that for no discernible reason he has the strength and brainpower of sixty-one-and-a-half men. There are no scenes in which Gabe accidentally rips a door off its hinges or suddenly finds films like The One banal and derivative. It's not really worth the time for either of us to get into the things in this piece that don't make any sense. Sufficed to say that for The One to win you over, you must have no expectations that it will carry through on an interesting conceit while also lacking the ability to reason and think logically.
The fight sequences are similarly wasteful: Jet Li, among the most virile martial artists in history, is asked to prance around kicking at air and scowling while CGI artists rush to fill in "bullet-time" victims in post-production. It's lifeless and ludicrous, an exercise in exhausted conventions, redundant sets, and also-ran special effects married to bad screenwriting and furrowed-brow emoting. Li has an excuse as his English is extremely poor, but screenwriting partners Wong and Morgan have a lot to answer for.
Given the opportunity to do just that, Wong, production David Schnyder, cinematographer Robert McLachlan, and editor Jim Coblans contribute a feature-length commentary to Columbia TriStar's amazing-looking "Special Edition" DVD of The One. Though it begins interestingly enough, with a somewhat technical discussion of the rarity of the use of the colour purple in modern film (and how September 11th necessitated that a stupid joke be dropped from the final product), Wong is a maddening rambler who will begin an anecdote at an appropriate time yet ramble on for several minutes with an endless slow-leaking drone of "um"s and "uh"s that makes one wish for a "disc destruct" button. Adding to the torture: Periodically, a microphone problem will result in a sudden hollowness and/or sharp increase in volume that is sure to set teeth on edge. By the time the final credits roll on this commentary, you'll want to bury The One in a hole in the ground.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is absolutely pristine, a showpiece for the format. Colours are sharp, saturated, and vibrant; black levels are spot on, contrast is perfect, and there are no compression flaws. (There is a second viewing option in a pan-and-scan travesty.) The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn't quite as active as might be expected for a modern mix, but the rear speakers and subwoofer get a meaty workout from the multiple explosions and awful metal soundtrack. A thirteen-and-a-half minute documentary called "Jet Li is 'The One'" is a fawning thing detailing how Jet is indeed the coolest cat in the alley (and probably deserving of a better vehicle), while another docu called "Multiverses Create 'The One'" (also 13+ minutes) imparts some intriguing fight choreography information whilst presenting behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with fight master Corey Yuen. A third featurette called "About Face" (the shortest at around six minutes) discusses the computer effects utilized to create the illusion of two Jet's pounding on each other. Taken together, these three pieces present a more entertaining and coherent film than The One.
Rounding out the satisfying disc is the "The Many Faces of Jet Li," essentially a two-minute animated photo gallery featuring Li playing dress up (yes, it's stupid), a beautifully mastered trailer for The One, bare-bones filmographies, and a hilarious "Animatic Comparison" that plays a scene from the movie in a split-screen with the G.I. Joe pre-visualization of the same. Ironically, because of the lack of a raucous soundtrack, the sequence (involving the egregious misuse of motorcycles) plays much better this way than it does in the finished film. Originally published: March 30, 2002.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Sony brings The One--i.e., the first and likely last movie to feature Carla Gugino imitating Jessica Rabbit while wearing computerized platform shoes with mice hidden in the soles--to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p presentation that, like the studio's concurrent BD issue of Ghosts of Mars, seems to have been tailored to the 'big-box' consumer's tastes. It's got a razor-sharp HiDef sheen, but fortunately that suits the material to a "t." Contrary to Walter's A+ grade, I'm perhaps misremembering the DVD as being sort of soupy and struggling with the film's magenta palette, which this disc handles with aplomb. Indeed, colours are alive here in a way they weren't in NTSC, with the abundant purple looking more transparently poppy than opaquely oppressive. This certainly isn't a terribly organic transfer and, for all its glossiness, there's somehow no mistaking the picture's age, but who buying The One would care about such things? As for the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio, its volume and clarity help rejuvenate a mediocre mix. Supplementary material is recycled in full from the standard-def platter; the only format-exclusive extra is a trailer, in HD, for Resident Evil: Degeneration. Originally published: March 19, 2009.