Early on in The One, Jet Li breaks into fragments and gets sucked up into one of those swirling metaphysical vortex tubes that spits you out into a parallel universe. (I’m planning to buy one the moment I master Windows XP.) As special effects go, this one is fairly commonplace, but still significantly more fun than watching Li pretend to act. It’s standard operating procedure in a review of a movie like this one to proclaim that the star, however trashy his surroundings, is a veritable fireball of charisma. I’m here to offer a heretical view: Jet Li is not charismatic. In The One, we watch good Jet battle evil Jet (they’re alter egos who hail from different dimensions — oh, never mind), and the difference between the characters boils down to…blank and slightly less blank.
Okay, I know — it’s an action film. Li, as always, kicks and leaps and twirls with razory grace, but his broken English is a good deal less charming than Jackie Chan’s, and it’s hardly much of a thrill to see The One recycle, on a lower budget, the slo-mo bullet dodges from The Matrix, along with unspectacular variations on several other of that film’s time-bending demolition-ballet effects. The whole thing is scored to a pulverizing techno-metal beat that’s revved to make the action look a lot more exciting than it is. The soundtrack thrashes butt; Li just goes through the motions.