To describe The One (2001) it is virtually required that one say something along the lines of “You see, there are multiple universes, and Jet Li lives in all of them. In one of these universes evil Jet Li has figured out that if he kills all the other Jet Lis in the other universes he'll become like a god. Only good Jet Li from a different universe can stop evil Jet Li.” And so the movie is easily described and can be quickly dismissed as utter foolishness.
That would be an unfortunate mistake. Yes, the film is complete and utter foolishness, but it at least has the good sense to recognize itself as such. If it didn't, the viewer wouldn't be treated to things like a picture of surfer-dude Jet Li (deceased). Plus, the film also has pretty good special effects and a few memorable fight sequences.
Directed by James Wong (Final Destination), the film follows a pretty standard formula for an “action star takes dual roles” film. There are a couple of police partners who know all about the multiverse (that would be “multiple universes”), and who track evil Jet Li, played by Jason Statham and Delroy Lindo; there's good Jet Li's love interest, played by Carla Gugino; and a couple of cases of mistaken identity. It's Timecop meets Double Impact but without any appearances by Jean-Claude Van Damme.
In the end, the only reason to sit down and watch The One isn't the routine but outlandish plot, it's to see Jet Li's fight sequences. While not spectacular, one won't walk away from them disappointed. Gabriel Yulaw (evil Jet Li) is able to dispatch cops at lightning speed due to his superpowers, but thankfully the camera puts everything into slow motion so that we can watch him perform takedown after takedown. The effect is quite a good one, as by slowing everything down evil Jet Li still moves at regular speed whereas everyone else moves in slow motion.
The best of the fights however is the inevitable climax where Yulaw takes on Gabe Law (good Jet Li), a carefully choreographed fight sequence where it is incredibly difficult to tell which Jet Li is the real Jet Li and which Jet Li is the stunt double wearing a green mask that ends up getting Jet Li's face superimposed on it.
The best of the behind-the-scenes featurettes, of which there are several, on the Blu-ray disc goes into exactly what it took to put together the good Jet Li vs. evil Jet Li fight. The film utilizes several different techniques (including the aforementioned green mask on the stunt double's face) in order to create the look, and it works very well. It may be possible to nitpick some of the details in the fight, but watching it straight through one will be far more impressed by the look of it than disappointed.
The Blu-ray transfer of the film is a pretty solid one, with great colors and sharp details, particularly for a film that is eight years old. The black levels are very good, and the special effects hold up surprisingly well in high definition. The audio mix features excellent use of surrounds and bass, and an audio track that is particularly clear (odd considering the incredibly silly dialogue that is spoken).
Outside of the featurette on how exactly the Jet Li vs. Jet Li fight was created, the release features a director and crew commentary, a look at the special effects, and an odd featurette which depicts the filming/photographing of all the various looks Jet Li had to do in order for us to see just how many different Jet Li's there are in the multiverse.
Better martial arts films have been made. Better multiple universe films have been made. Better Jet Li films have been made. However, The One still manages to combine all of those elements into an action flick which won't win any awards, but which still manages a couple of really good fights and a plot which you won't forget.