Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ghost in the Case: The One

"There is not one universe.  There are many; a multiverse.  We have the technology to travel between universes, but travel is highly restricted and policed.  There is not one you.  There are many.  Each of us exists in present time, in parallel universes.  There was a balance in the system, but now a force exists who seeks to destroy the balance so he can become The One."

Ghost here!  Thanks for joining me today for yet another

Last time I did a Ghost in the Case, I reviewed Turtles Forever.  If you didn't read that, it was basically a story where characters meet themselves from different dimensions and try to stop a bad guy.  Well that got my brain cranking into overdrive.  I vaguely remembered a sort of action movie which had a multi-dimensional story to it as well.  Something about a guy going across different dimensions and fighting himself or something like that  It was a movie that I hadn't seen in 12+ years so I decided to track it down to review for this week.

After a little bit of Googling, I found the film I was looking for.  It was a 2001 Jet Li film called The One.  Upon looking up scores on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, I found that this movie was definitely right up my alley for a review.  It was something that I have honestly NEVER heard anyone talk about in my life (and also one that I had forgotten about myself).  It's also something that your average Joe has ranked in the 50% approval/liking area.  That all pretty much screams potential for this review type since that's the kind of stuff I like to go for.  So.... lets take a look at this film that I had forgotten about and see where it actually lies.

The Plot

A man named Lawless is being escorted out of prison, but the police are ambushed and lawless is killed in the process.  His assassin is a man named Gabriel Yulaw who looks identical to Lawless.  Yulaw gives the police the slip but two agents named Rodecker and Funsch, members of the Multiverse Authority, appear to be tracking him.  The pair find Yulaw and subdue him as a wormhole opens up teleporting them to another dimension... their dimension.  Once they land Yulaw is captured and placed on trial.  Yulaw has been illegally utilizing wormhole technology to travel to different universes in order to hunt down the alternate versions of himself and kill them.  When an alternate is killed, the remaining life force and power is spread among the other surviving alternates.  Successfully killing all other versions of himself would make him "The One."  Some say doing such would cause the universes to explode but others believe it would turn "The One" into a god.  Yulaw intends to find out.

Yulaw is sentenced to exile in a prison dimension, however the woman he loves springs an explosive allowing Yulaw to escape into the universe of the last remaining version of himself.  The last alternate, Gabriel (Gabe) Law, works for the Los Angeles Police and has been seeing inexplicable growth in strength, speed, and mental capability.  He is escorting a prisoner out similar to the situation with Lawless, when Yulaw attempts the same assassination.  However, Gabe can sense something is wrong resulting in a firefight between Yulaw and the police.  Gabe is shocked and confused to be fighting himself as he has no knowledge of alternate universes.  Yulaw escapes but Gabe follows closely behind.  Yulaw then shoots Gabe but is unable to kill him as Rodecker and Funsch have come to that dimension and stop Yulaw.

Gabe goes to the hospital but senses his lookalike's presence again.  There is another fight between Gabe, Yulaw, Rodecker and Funsch which results in Yulaw once more getting away.  Unfortunately, the confusion with Gabe and Yulaw has the other members of the police force thinking Gabe has gone insane and is dangerous.  Rodecher and Funsch now are facing a problem.  If either Gabe or Yulaw are killed the other will become "The One."  Rodecker then suggests that the pair team up; Rodecker will go after Yulaw while Funsch will keep an eye on Gabe.  Rodecker successfully finds Yulaw but after a brief confrontation is killed.  Funsch finds Gabe and explains about the alternate dimensions and why he has suddenly gotten so strong.  Yulaw stumbles upon Gabe's house where his wife believes Yulaw to be Gabe.  Gabe finally arrives at his house, but is forced to watch as Yulaw kills his wife before his eyes.  Gabe then decides to team up with Funsch to stop or kill Yulaw at the next wormhole opening.

Gabe, Funsch, and Yulaw all three arrive in a sort of factory where the next wormhole is to open.  Gabe and Yulaw proceed to fight each other with Gabe eventually becoming victorious.  Rather than kill his wife's murderer, Gabe pulls Yulaw into the wormhole with Funsch as all three are taken back to the Multiverse Authority's headquarters.  The MVA Agents intend to send Yulaw to his exile and almost send the wrong man before Funsch notices the lack of tan where Gabe's wedding ring sat.  Yulaw is sent to the Hades Universe and Gabe is meant to be sent back home.  Funsch, however, realizes that Gabe will be arrested and imprisoned for the crimes committed by Yulaw and instead sends him to a universe in which he never lived but his wife is still alive.  Gabe finds that version of his wife as, in the Hades Universe, Yulaw is fending off an onslaught of exiled prisoners and declares that he will still become "The One." 

Interesting Choices

I'm going to forego my normal segments of pointing out the positives and negatives in this review.  This film is a very middle-of-the-road sort of film when it comes to quality and entertainment.  Anything that I would talk about is either a purposeful artistic choice of the film or fairly inconsequential to the quality overall  So I'll just talk about some... interesting choices (both strange interesting and legitimately interesting.)

Certain actors have certain strengths.  If you're going to cast Johnny Depp you want to make him a little weird.  If you're going to cast Danny Devito you want to make him funny.  With the main star of this film being Jet Li, you will want to have plenty of martial arts fighting for him to showcase.  While the fight between Yulaw and Gabe at the end of the film certainly does show off Li's natural talents, the rest of the film has him mostly wasted.  Why?  Well the majority of the film has him doing Matrix-like dodging of bullets or picking up motorcycles with his bare hands and smashing them together.  There is a lot of very over-the-top fighting sequences that required a large amount of computer work... which wasn't exactly the best looking computer graphics either.  Normally this would have gone on my negative list but then I realized that this was kind of the point they were going for.  As Yulaw kept killing his alternate forms he became more powerful and was able to do more extreme things; things they wanted to showcase in this film.  They could have had more realistic fights more often but that defeats the purpose of him becoming (effectively) a superhuman.  So on the one hand I wish there was more normal martial arts seen, but on the other hand I sort of understand why.

The soundtrack was also... odd.  Now it's not uncommon for action films to utilize some form of heavy metal music to get people pumped up.  However, most of them that come to mind use either purely instrumental metal or lesser known songs.  This movie chose to use bigger name songs in the early 00's metal and nu-metal scene such as Bodies by Drowning Pool, Last Resort by Papa Roach, Papercut by Linkin Park, and Down with the Sickness by Disturbed.  It just takes me out of the moment when I'm suddenly hearing a super popular song being played over top of action when the film didn't make that particular song popular.  It'd be like having a Ninja Turtles movie but playing Through the Fire and Flames by DragonForce as they fight Shredder.  It's not a terrible choice it just makes you go "....wait WHAT??"

The last thing I want to talk about is something that is legitimately interesting.  As I was reading the wikipedia article on this movie in the off chance I missed something, I saw a notation about the final battle between Gabe and Yulaw.  People who don't know martial arts that well (or don't care) can certainly notice there was a difference in the types of moves that Gabe and Yulaw were performing.  However, most people won't know the meaning behind this.  They are actually fighting with two distinct styles of martial arts that are extensions of their personalities.  Yulaw fights with the Xingyiquan style which utilizes aggressive linear movements; Yulaw is very direct and doesn't care who he hurts.  Gabe fights with the Baguazhang style which uses subtle circular movements; Gabe believes life goes in a circle and is balanced.  While this isn't something the average viewer would really know, it's very interesting to see the martial arts being used as an extension of the character.


This film is mostly harmless and well deserves that 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It's interesting enough to watch if you happen to catch it somewhere.  There's nothing really that terrible about it, though some of the special effects aren't fantastic.  That being said... in full disclosure there's nothing really outstanding about it either.  If the idea of a science fiction action martial arts film interests you, if the plot sounds interesting, or if you want to see a cool fight sequence of Jet Li against himself then check it out.  There are certainly far worse things you could be watching.  It's not going to be anyone's favorite movie but it's certainly worth at least one watch.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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