Monday, 13 September 2010

The One (2001)

Jet Li. Now there's an action star. Having started a career in the motion picture industry in his native China, Li had become a bankable star to rival even the mighty Jackie Chan himself and like Chan, Li made the leap across the pond to work in Hollywood pictures. Since then they've ranged from pretty darn awful stuff like Cradle 2 The Grave to enjoyable and nicely crafted action films like The One, which I've decided to review today.

The One is essentially Highlander with a Sci-Fi twist. Li plays Gabe Law, a police officer who becomes the target of his doppelgänger Yu Law from another dimension, who is hopping from one reality to the next offing his counterparts in hoping he can become the titular One. A very basic premise but one that makes for quite a fun film and one (I feel I'm going to over-using that word through out this review) which all parties involved should be very proud of. The One doesn't try to be high art, it doesn't try and re-invent the Sci-Fi genre or take itself way too seriously like other hybrid films (See The Matrix trilogy) it's play very much to it's own strengths and those are Jet Li himself and the breezy, easy to watch pace it goes with.

Li has always made for a decent leading man, his straight faced demeanour and blistering martial skill made him a house hold name in his native china with the Once Upon A Time In China series and other films such as Fist of Legend. Here he takes that persona and tweeks it a little bit so to make his character Gabe one which you can root for. He plays well off his co-stars such as Carla Gugino, who plays the role of his wife and two share some nice chemistry (Something Jackie Chan seems to struggle with when he acts opposite a female lead) and I would have liked to have seen that explored more. Besides being the good guy we're also treated to him also playing the film's villain, Li tries his best to look mean and intimidating but his friendly face just makes it difficult to really make it all that convincing, not that he doesn't try of course but I think the writers should have tried a little harder to make the characters of Gabe and Yu complete opposites.

Having said that, it would appear when putting together the action scenes, Corey Yuen came up with the rather clever idea of giving both characters different fighting styles. Rather then giving them both generic martial arts styles, Gabe uses Baguazhang (The Eight Trigram Palms) which uses subtle circular movements while Yu Law chooses Xingyiquan (The Shape-Will Fist) which has more aggressive linear movements. Of course, as you'd expect Li pulls off both styles expertly and you can see he put a lot of effort into trying to separate the two characters, even if it didn't fully pay off. The fight scenes are great certainly not the best he's ever done but a definite step up from the likes of Romeo Must Die. Li makes it all look too easy as he throws kick after punch after kick and Corey Yuen's choreography always has that simplistic yet nicely timed aspect to it that I enjoy thoroughly and is a great addition to the many films he's been involved with. With it being a sci-fi film it does throw in a lot of effects and wire work but adds to the really fun comic book feel the film does really well in conveying.

A lot of people dismiss the film as taking itself way too seriously but it honestly doesn't. You can see director James Wong really wanted to make a kick-ass sci-fi action movie that fans of both genres could enjoy and while it does play a little fast and loose with the sci-fi aspect, that's to be expected as the spectacle of seeing Jet Li go toe to toe with himself is the main draw here. It's evident the cast also got what the movie was all about. Just listen to Jason Statham growl his dialogue and grit his teeth as he plays the hard boiled cop tracking down Yu Law, just watch the finale as both super strong Laws literally tear the house down as they go at it. All these things mix together to make a really underrated and unappreciated film that really deserves more credit then it's been given.

The One will never be held in high regard as Li's other films like Fearless but you know what? I'm totally okay with that . What we've been given is a great sci-fi action film that people should really sit back and enjoy and that's what movies are for, right? I thought so.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the film didn't take itself too seriously - it's a lot fun, as you make clear. But I talked to a lot of viewers who were completely baffled by the reality-hopping, so they said it was "overly complicated" or "pretentious"! Don't ever overestimate Western intelligence.

    One thing that impressed me: It's extremely hard to come up with a good film ending, and I thought this ending was GREAT!