The One 2001 Review: The real strength of this film is its star, Jet Li

In a stunning dual role, international action star Jet Li portrays Gabriel Yulaw. A police officer confronted with a sinister form of himself escaped from an advanced, parallel universe and intent on killing Gabriel. His alter ego’s hunt culminates in a fateful battle between good. And evil that changes Gabriel’s perception of reality and forces him to examine the evil hidden within himself. The One features riveting martial arts and innovative special effects.

With a fantastic opening sequence harking back to the gleeful plagiarism of Sixties pulp science fiction TV. The One (Ke Doc Ton) is a movie which really knows what it’s about. But which, sadly, is about all of it within the first ten minutes. At least as far as the plot is concerned. It is, essentially, a remake of Highlander, without the flashbacks and without quite such a silly premise. If you’re looking for story and ideas, don’t bother. If you’re looking for lots of stylish running about and fighting, however, this could be the one for you.

The premise of this movie (phim hanh dong vo thuat) is that we live in a multiverse where every individual has 124 counterparts. Each living out their lives in parallel universes. When a cop responsible for patrolling the interstices of these universes accidentally kills another version of himself. He discovers that the energy from the dead man has been distributed between his other selves.

Consequently, he sets out to kill himself over and over again, so that he can become a god. As you do. In a universe which may just possibly be our own. He encounters his final remaining other self, the good-natured, naive and fluffy but similarly martial arts trained Gabe. And thus audiences get to spend an hour or so observing the traditional genre staple of a superpowered hero fighting himself.

The real strength of this film is its star, Jet Li (Ly Lien Kiet), who can not only fight. But also act sufficiently well that his two developed characters are quite distinct and can be told apart even when fighting at a distance. His natural charisma, together with the film’s easy-going, cheesy humour and delight in its own melodrama, make what might have been yet another God-awful Hollywood rip-off (cf: The Matrix) into an entertaining popcorn movie which neither pretends nor needs to be anything more than shiny and fast and dumb.

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