(review originally written in 2/02; additional information about the differences in this Superbit edition have been added.)
When "The One" was set to be released late last Winter, the film had fairly high expectations for it. The trailers were rather attention-grabbing, director James Wong and writer Glen Morgan had last been seen with the mildly inspired horror film "Final Destination" and, in my opinion, star Jet Li's acting ability has improved moderately over his past few films. The last element would help, since not only would Li be on-screen for the entire film, so would his co-star - himself.
To explain, "The One" takes place in a world that is one of 125 different universes that currently exist. Yulaw (Li) is a multi-universe agent that went rogue after he found that killing another one of the 124 himselves that live in different universes gave him that selve's strength and abilities. He kept going - and now, there's only one other Li character in Yulaw's way, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy named Gabriel. Yet, the power of the others has been equally distributed to him, as well. Meanwhile, agents Roedecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham) are persuing the bad Li character. Much confusion and many special effects follow.
Seriously, as previously noted, there are a lot of interesting possibilities that "The One" could have covered. Instead, the film seems rushed - more interested in special effects and fight scenes than characters. While I'm not looking for exceptional character development in this kind of picture, "The One" doesn't exactly have a great plot to fall back on, nor interesting dialogue. It's essentially like watching a video game. At 87 minutes for the entirity (deduct a few for credits), there's really hardly any time to fill-out many ideas or characters - or explain away questionable plot logic. Delroy Lindo, Jason Statham and Carla Gugino (all fine actors) have supporting roles that feel as if a good portion of their scenes ended up on the editing room floor.
As for the fight scenes, I would guess that most of the film's reported 60 million budget went to providing the special effects - as seen in the trailer, "The One" uses many visual effects to enhance the fight scenes that are similar to those made popular by "The Matrix". While this is exciting on occasion, "The One" isn't nearly as creative in staging fight scenes as some of Li's early "non-FX" martial arts films were. In those films (and, to some extent, Li's "Kiss of the Dragon", from last Summer), the choreography is often absolutely breathtaking - and they amaze without the aid of computer effects.
Tech credits are about as good as one might expect. Robert McLachlan's cinematography is slick and glossy, production designer David L. Snyder's work is very solid and Harry Cohen's sound design is agressive and enveloping. In other words, "The One" usually looks impressive, but more work should have been devoted to developing the plot and making the film more than simply fight scenes that start off as somewhat exciting and then become repetitive.
Interesting side note: WWF star The Rock was originally slated to star instead of Li.
VIDEO: "The One" is presented by Columbia/Tristar Home Video in both 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan formats. Of course, the widescreen version is the prefered viewing experience and the one that I will discuss here. While not without a few very minor problems here and there, the presentation was impressive. Sharpness and detail were perfect, as the picture took on an impressive, "film-like" look throughout, with no softness whatsoever.
Flaws were noticable, but generally remained minor and were not particularly distracting. Slight edge enhancement was apparent during a few scenes, as was a few minor instances of grain. The print otherwise seemed to be in crystal clear condition, with seemingly no marks, specks or scratches to be seen. Pixelation was also absent.
Colors also looked superb throughout. Most of the film took on a steely blue tone, but other more vibrant or warm colors were occasionally seen. Either way, colors looked accurate, with no smearing. Overall, one of the strongest recent presentations that I've seen from the studio.
"The One" is presented once again in the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen on this Superbit edition. This new release is an example of the "problem" with some of Columbia/Tristar's edition. It's not a bad problem, really, but it's an issue. Yes, this is a better presentation, but it's only slightly better then the presentation on the first release, which was also quite good. The improvements here are noticable, but still pretty slight. The minor instances of edge enhancement that were spotted on the original release aren't seen here. Definition, which was excellent on the first release, is a little bit better here. No pixelation or other concerns appeared, while colors looked as well-rendered here as they did on the prior edition.
SOUND: "The One" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. As one might expect, the sci-fi actioner does provide surround-sound that's almost constantly active and occasionally, quite agressive. Given the minimal amount of dialogue throughout the movie, most of the focus is given to either the metal score or the sound effects. Not that I have anything against the genre, but there were moments throughout the film that the heavy metal music didn't entirely fit with the scenes and was loud enough to be rather distracting. Otherwise, audio quality remained solid, as the sound effects were crisp and clean sounding and dialogue came through clearly. As one would expect from this sort of movie, several scenes provide strong bass.
This new Superbit edition includes the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was used on prior release, as well as a DTS 5.1 presentation. The new DTS 5.1 presentation doesn't offer much in the way of improvements over the Dolby Digital presentation. Aside from the fact that sound effects seemed be somewhat more fierce and crisp, the DTS track seemed very similar to the Dolby presentation.
EXTRAS: The original release had a commentary and other supplements. This being the Superbit edition, all of the supplements have been taken off in order to optimize audio/video quality.
Final Thoughts: "The One" had potential to be entertaining and interesting, but, aside from a few action scenes and a good dual performance from Jet Li, there's hardly anything to the film, which is quite forgettable. Those interested might find Li's recent "Kiss of the Dragon" or the star's earlier films more entertaining. For those who enjoyed the picture, the original edition offers audio/video quality that's close to the Superbit and a few supplements. The Superbit edition does provide improvements over the original in terms of presentation, but not to the point where I'd recommend an upgrade for those who own the original.
The Film * 1/2