It isn't that Li lacks the skills of the others. His problem is a personality void--one that has plagued him in all of his English-language movies. He has slipped a long way from the energetic razzle-dazzle he showed in the “Once Upon in China” series.
In “The One,” in which Taoist philosophy is intermingled with science fiction, Li is Yulaw, a megalomaniac hunting down other versions of himself in parallel universes so he can kill them and steal their “energy.” The lives he takes make Yulaw stronger (the movie borders on becoming an Asian “Dracula”). With each life, Yulaw develops greater superhuman powers--he can twist metal in his bare hands and zip down a freeway on foot.
Li also plays Gabriel, the last remaining version of himself living in the “multiverse”--the compendium of 125 individual universes. Gabriel becomes Yulaw's final target.
The filmmakers borrow heavily from “The Matrix”--the pulp Eastern mysticism, the slo-mo fighting (complete with Li dodging bullets) and the relentless action.
Wong, a television writer who also helmed “Final Destination,” doesn't have an action director's sensibility. As a result, the martial arts sequences are messy.
The movie is also another painful reminder of Li's awkwardness with the English language. The actor, a major star in Asia, reportedly studies English with a tutor four hours a day. But he doesn't give the lines much inflection; he delivers his awful dialogue flatly.
Jet Li may be The One for audiences in Hong Kong, but as far as domestic audiences go he's only second-rate. Starring Jet Li, Delroy Lindo and Carla Gugino. Directed by James Wong. Written by James Wong and Glen Morgan. Produced by Glen Morgan and Steve Chasman. A Columbia release. Sci-Fi/Action. Rated PG-13 for intense action violence and some language. Running time: 86 min