Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:27 - Released 11/2/01

Ah, the pleasure of life unburdened by physics. That's what the director, the writers, and especially the special effects people must have been thinking while working on The One, a Matrix-style sci-fi thriller with futuristic overtones (although it's set in the present) which combines wormhole space travel, excellent weaponry, and up-and-coming Chinese martial arts star Jet Li (Romeo Must Die), whose main task is to beat the crap out of himself. Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, and directed by Wong (the same team behind the silly horror/thriller Final Destination), this movie deals with the concept of a parallel universe; in fact, many of them, where everything is just about exactly the same, with events happening concurrently and all the same people doing basically the same things, except with different hair styles. I think Steven Hawking has mentioned this.

Li plays a character called Yu Law, who has discovered that when he travels to different universes and finds his double, and kills him, he (and the rest of hims in all the other universes) gains strength. The more universes he visits, and the more hims he kills, the more strength he gets, because there is a fixed amount of strength divided equally among all the remaining hims in all the remaining universes. Get it? So when we meet him, he is about to be sent to a penal colony for killing 123, count them, 123 hims (all with the name "Law," all with different hair styles) on 123 different universes. But he's so strong now, he escapes and travels to yet another version of Los Angeles to kill the last remaining him: Gabriel Law. If he is successful, he will become "The One"—whatever that means. Probably "The One with the most movie contracts." Meanwhile, Gabe doesn't understand why he's recently become Post-Spinach-Popeye, but doesn't mind that he can pick up cars and jump out of the way of bullets. He's just concerned about what's going to happen to his wife (Carla Gugino) the next time they have sex.

Yu Law (not Gabe Law) is being chased by two cops from the "multiverse," which is the central hub of all the universes. They are Roedecker and Funsch (Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham), whose names are so much fun to say, they almost make it all worthwhile, and they have to apprehend Yu Law (not Gabe Law) and take him back to the multiverse to face justice. But they can't kill him, you see. Then Gabe (not Yu) would be "The One."

I think this movie should be called Groundhog Universe. It bears many similarities to the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, with scenes being played out more than once, with minor differences, by the same actors, with only the central character aware that it's all happening again. All I know is, if there are really multiple parallel universes, I pity all the versions of me that have to watch all the versions of this movie. While the effects are amazing (from Li picking up motorcycles and whacking people over the head with them, to everyone but him moving in slow motion, to the fascinating process of dis- and re-integration when he travels through a black hole), the acting is howlingly atrocious. With the possible exception of Lindo. The final showdown between Yu Law and Gabe Law, in which one version of Li has the decency to take off his jacket so we know who is who, is a spectacular display of effects-enhanced martial arts, but the guy can't deliver a line to save his life, nor can Guigno, his romantic opposite. Meanwhile, the script—well, let's put it this way: I've had three MRIs before, and the nurse never asked me if I've had a penile implant. And it's a damn good thing. ***

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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