The latest Jet Li vehicle is such an unrepentant genre piece that it has jettisoned almost anything that might interfere with its lean and aggressive conceit, clocking in at a very tight 80 minutes. It doesn’t ease you into its high-concept premise of 125 parallel universes connected by wormholes which periodically open and close; it’s just Bam! and we’re off. The parallel universes are all pretty similar and someone — let’s call him the evil Jet — has discovered that if he travels to all of them and kills his parallel selves, he accumulates their energy, and if he kills all, he becomes a sort of god. What sort isn’t clear, nor is how he discovered all this, since it took place before the movie began.
The One opens with the evil Jet having killed all the parallel Jets except one — let’s call him the good Jet. Evil Jet may have the strength of 123 men, but good Jet has the strength of, well, his goodness. And so it’s all cat-and-mouse, with ancillary characters whose main function is to get killed and surreal visuals over pumping heavy metal.
When the two Jets start dressing alike, much confusion ensues; but not to worry, the filmmakers have our best interest at heart and, just before the well-executed if familiar brutal ballet of their final showdown, evil Jet rips off his black jacket in a fierce let-me-get-a-little-more-comfortable-before-I-kill-you move. But instead of revealing a fighter’s physique, he uncovers a kind of ratty-looking blue-gray T-shirt. There’s no reason for him to do this except to enable us, once they begin to tango, to tell which is which. I, for one, appreciated the gesture.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].