The One (2001) — Highlander meets The Matrix

“There was balance in the system, but now a force exists who seeks to destroy the balance so he can become The One.”

Justin’s rating: You can tell when he’s computer generated, because his upper torso turns into Samus from Metroid

Justin’s review: Now, there’s a stupid thing that goes on in the popular opinion of movie watchers. What goes on is that people simply bash a film that has similar elements to a more famous film that started a trend, not stopping to care if the new movie is good or not. I think it starts when crowds pay too much tribute to a movie critic’s say-so, and substitute the words of someone else for their own thoughts. I don’t like this. We saw this when Scream came out: Everyone liked it, then everyone hated it (natural backlash), then everyone accused any post-1996 teen horror flick of being a Scream ripoff. And sure, some definitely were. But others were mercilessly trampled over by critics who never paused to take the film on its own merits. That’s stupid.

Keep in mind that no film really has a monopoly on originality. They all, more or less, owe homage to past films (or books) of a similar nature. The best they can hope for, and strive for, is to be as inventive and creative with the materials they have to work with. So what I’m saying is that while the basic elements might be shared all the way back to Shakespeare and beyond, a good filmmaker will hopefully present the story in a new light with some well-designed aspects. A poor filmmaker will just copy a cool idea for the sake of having the idea, not bothering to see if it works within the context of the movie.

Okay, that’s just all way to college-ey for my writing tastes, so I’m gonna take a quick break to get back in touch with my inner child.


Okay, maybe I should get back in touch with my inner child who has a babysitter. Ah, that’s better.

I say all this because ever since The Matrix came out, any and all films incorporating (1) slow-motion shots, (2) bullet time sequences, (3) exotic kung-fu, or (4) bald people are nearly instantly slandered for not being The Matrix. Which is true. They are not. But John Q. Critic just adores being able to come up with a quick movie comparison quip, and so, like Scream, The Matrix is pulled out as the measuring stick for any sci-fi martial arts flick to come down the line. And this, again, is stupid, when you consider that The Matrix cannot claim originality in anything they did: aspects of that movie can be seen in 1984, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Johnny Mnemonic, The Killer and even Terminator 2. It just did old things in a new and good way.

The One is not and should not be taken for deep intellectual ponderings. It might not even be taken for a movie, depending on your requirements. But as flashy, straight-up action, you could do much worse. It inherits legacies from Highlander and that really bad Van Damme flick where Van Damme plays twin brothers.

Here we have Jet Li, who speaks English about as good as your average gas station attendant (rim shot), but is an incredible martial artist. Aided by powerful computer software, there is nothing Jet Li cannot do. If you’re a purist who hates when martial arts films are “assisted” by computer effects, you’re going to scoff at The One. But if you need a little something to tide you over until someone can do The Matrix one better, it’s not half bad.

Jet Li is the good guy, and Jet Li is the bad guy. Each hails from a parallel universe, wherein if one gets killed, the other gets much stronger. Taking its title as an obvious Highlander reference, the plot is simplistic and minimal as good and bad Jet Li fight each other. We’re never sure why bad Jet Li wants to be so strong. They could’ve used a little backstory where he was some whiny runt who desperately wanted to be in an alternate universe version of WWE Smackdown. I did like how the bad Jet Li had an uncanny shot and an ability to run over 50 mph.

When compared to its brethren, the male punch-and-shootfest, The One more than meets the requirements of a Saturday afternoon watch. I mean, if Kickboxer can remain a staple of guy dorms everywhere, surely there is room for The One more.


  1. I don’t bash this movie for its similarities to The Matrix. No no no… I bash this movie for its use of The shitty Disturbed music.

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