Netflix Diaries: The One

Welcome to Netflix Diaries, where we pick a title from Netflix to share with you. We’ve recently covered Making a Murderer, but today we’re rolling back the clock to a film from 2001. Ian Bretherton tells us why Jet Li’s martial arts Cult(ish) Classic, The One, still holds a special place in his heart.

The One, then. Everyone remembers The One, right? The 2001 zeitgeist defining sci-fi actioner that pummelled all before it at the box office? The film that defined the career of the new-millennial dream team of Jet Li and Jason Statham? No, you say? Oh, ok. Guess it’s just myself and my old housemate, Gaz, then. Realising then and still realising now the cinematic majesty of this misjudged martial arts “classic”. An assertion backed up by its monumental score of 14% on Rotten Tomatoes…

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Firstly, a brief synopsis, for all those poor unfortunate souls who have yet to see The One for themselves: Jet Li stars as Gabe Law, an all-round good guy, family man and police officer in present (2001) day Los Angeles who is plunged into the middle of a ‘Multiverse’ police hunt for a trans-dimensional serial killer. The twist- Gabe’s identical alternate self from another dimension, Gabriel Yulaw, is hunting down and killing all of the other versions of himself in the 124 alternate realities that exist, becoming more powerful with the death of each one. Why are there 124 Universes specifically? Shush, Jet Li is taking down a full SWAT team with his epic kung fu skills and barely raising a sweat!.

All ‘evil’ Jet Li he has to do is kill the last ‘good’ Jet Li (handily located in our own Universe), to become all-powerful and the titular, “THE ONE”! The only problem is, with just the one remaining Jet Li then existing, the Universe will cease to exist! So Good Jet Li must team up with Jason Statham (yes, The Stath, post-Snatch and pre-The Transporter and brilliantly under the misapprehension that he has hair and can pull off a convincing American accent), to take down Bad Jet Li and prevent him becoming a living God of the Multiverse. Or the apocalypse from taking place. Or something else really, really bad that might happen although no-one is quite sure what that might be.

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Sounds brilliant, right? Well, no, not quite. As much as it pains me to say it, The One, isn’t actually all that good. Not even in a ‘so bad, it’s good’ kind of way. Under any standard film criticism, and with all the academic gravitas that my 2:1 in Film and Media provides, The One cannot be classed as a ‘Good’ film. The acting is sub-standard, the plotting lazy, the concepts unexplored, the editing is shoddy and the action somehow (it’s Jet Li and Jason Statham for christssake!) leaves much to be desired. In addition to this, the film is so slight and with a truly awful nu-metal soundtrack that most viewers now happening upon this at two am on Channel 5 on a Friday night (or on Netflix now!) will be left wondering just how this whole mess came to be.

If you’re now asking why I like this film so much? Why does it hold such a special place in mine and Gaz’s heart? Well, what I think about when remembering The One is not really the film itself, or the fantastical concept of the multiverse or even The Stath’s hair, I think about the circumstances surrounding my viewing of the film. I think about viewing it four times in 24 hours- once in the afternoon while skiving from Uni, once while drinking in our student flat while getting ready to go out that same night, again when returning from our night out at 3am with a load of random folk who’d tagged along from the Rock/Metal night at Aqualennium on a Tuesday night and finally when hungover in the morning, wondering who the smelly guy with all the piercings was asleep in the spare room.

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I think about Disturbed blasting on the soundtrack and I’m immediately taken back to Quincy’s nightclub on a Monday night and a hundred teenagers headbanging on the dancefloor. I think about my workmates at VUE Cinemas from the time, the house I shared with my friends at West Cliff, getting three DVDs for a tenner from Blockbuster and only watching one, repeatedly. I think about the carefree life of being 20 years old and only considering which Beer Deal to get from Ram’s Newsagents, what takeout to get from Mick’s Hut and who’s turn it was to attempt the three week pile up of washing up.

So, The One, then. Not remembered by many and not all that fondly remembered by those who do. However, a perfect example of a film that can become great for one person not by virtue of its’ own merits, more through the perfect confluence of conditions affecting when it was viewed- my very own Cult Classic.

Written by Ian Bretherton.

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