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Columbia Pictures
Official Site

Director: James Wong
Producers: Steve Chasman, Glen Morgan, Charles Newirth, and James Wong
Written by: Glen Morgan and James Wong
Cast: Jet Li, Carla Gugino, Jason Stratham, Delroy Lindo

Rating: out of 5

After the massive disappointment of KISS OF THE DRAGON, audiences have every right to be leery of the latest outing by Li, but the worry is unfounded. Although not brilliant, THE ONE delivers the action and fun weíve come to expect without too much of the emotional side-story that seems to be Liís Achilles heel. James Wong, who wrote and directed the under-appreciated FINAL DESTINATION, returns to helm an action project that also has the fun of speculative science fiction.

The action in THE ONE is fast and furious for the most part, the gunplay explosive and the martial arts grounded enough in actual techniques to let Liís brilliance truly shine. The scenes where Li fights himself, villain Yulaw vs. hero Gabriel Law, work remarkably smoothly. My main beef is that the climactic battle has too many close-ups of his face instead of wider shots to show off the fighting. Li can act, but thatís not what audiences come to see.

My acting standards for action films are simple: Donít annoy me or distract me from the action. In this, THE ONE succeeds admirably and occasionally goes beyond the call. Stratham, known for his roles in LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH, does a fine job as Funsch, the protocol-hating cop, letting us enjoy the clichťs his role entails. Lindo, as Roedecker the veteran cop (I use cop to describe the character typeósee the movie or nifty website to find out their specific job), fares less well when his complex character comes off as more blind to reality than conflicted.

The hardest role fell to Carla Gugino, the mom in SPY KIDS, who plays the love interest. Sheís supposed to be the center of Gabrielís world, his one reason for living, but instead stumbles on the worst part of this movie: Liís apparent obsession with romantic love as the answer to life. The most agonizingly painful scenes in KISS OF THE DRAGON, story by Li, were the so-called love scenes and their abysmal dialogue. THE ONE suffers a similar fate, if not on the same scale. Li in love doesnít work, and any dialogue, plot points or characterizations that rely on him being in love are doomed, doomed, doomed! That said, the love story didnít really hurt THE ONE that much, it just grates to see the same mistakes repeated.

The special effects, while not stellar, suited me just fine, though my more compu-savvy companion complained. I especially like the brutally painful method of universe-hopping depicted. Forget ďStar TrekĒ transporters, this shit looks nasty. The science fiction explanations for everything, a quick science lesson during the credits (so pay attention and get there on time), were elegantly done. Fancy enough to look and sound good, but simple enough they didnít constantly create massive plot holes.

My final gripe with this fun movie has to be the ending. Wong breaks the most basic rule of dramatic storytelling: If thereís a gun in the first scene, you have to shoot it in the last act. The reason Wong ended it the way he did is obvious. Look out for THE ONE: TWO to hit theatres in 2003!

That said, go see this movie with your buddies and leave those who shun violence behind. The fun is in the ass-kicking, sci-fi touches, and watching Li beat himself up. At 80 minutes, THE ONE doesnít give you time to get bored. Letís hope it does well and Li takes the hint.

óReed Oliver

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

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