The One (film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"What if there was a killer traveling through parallel worlds... and he looked just like you?"

An action movie from 2001, starring Jet Li and Jet Li with Jet Li in a minor role, born in the wake of the Matrix-inspired Bullet Time craze.

The story takes place in a multiverse composed of 125 parallel worlds. Gabriel Yulaw, a former interdimensional law enforcer, is forced to kill one of his alter-egos in self defense. This action accidentally leads him to discover that the life energy is redistributed among the surviving versions of Yulaw, making them stronger and faster. Soon afterward, he drops out of the force and begins actively hunting down all his alternate selves in order to become the most powerful being in existence. He makes it to 123, and only a single target prevents him from becoming The One.

Tropes used in The One include:
  • Acting for Two: Several actors play counterpart characters from the different dimensions; Jet Li plays both protagonist and antagonist, plus a few additional ones that we see getting killed off. Each character is significantly different from the other; Carla Gugino plays Gabe's loving wife and Yulaw's rather trampy-looking consort.
  • A God Am I: What Yulaw hopes to achieve after killing all of his Alternate Universe counterparts.
  • A Hell of a Time: When Yulaw is imprisoned after failing to become the one he finds it's not so bad, as he receives what he wanted anyways a place where he is the most powerful of all.
  • All the Myriad Ways
    • Rodecker is an interdimensional law officer in one world, and a gas station worker in ours.
    • Al Gore became president in another world, and Bush in ours.
    • T.K. is an Evil Redhead in one world, a wife in another, and a has-yet-to-meet Good Law Veterinarian in another.
    • We get to see maybe a half-dozen different version of Law at his hearing including the criminal Lawless, and the goofy blonde Sven Law.
  • All There in the Manual: The movie's official website, now shut down, included a lot of background material. In it, it is revealed that Yulaw was not the first to try this trick. There were at least two other interdimensional criminals who went around killing doubles. One of them did it for someone else.
  • Armor Is Useless: Surprisingly averted. All of the armor worn by SWAT team members in both universes deflects bullets impressively well; the armor worn by the SWAT leader escorting Lawless is even shown deflecting a dozen bullets during a slow-motion sequence, and the officer is just in pain, not killed. When Yulaw shoots anyone with his pistol, he generally has to aim for limb shots to put anyone down (save the oddly-unarmored multiversal police).
  • Badass:
    • Yulaw. Definitely Yulaw.
    • Roedecker. He's an ordinary human who is able to go toe-to-toe with Yulaw and fight evenly with him for about a minute and a half.
  • Badass Boast: Yulaw's speech at the end:

Yulaw: I am Yulaw! I am nobody's bitch! You are mine. I don't need to know you. You only need to know me. I will be The One!

  • Bifurcated Weapon: The movie begins with two very similar scenes of a prisoner being transferred, each in another universe. The cops' equipment is one of the differences; In the first scene, their rifles have attached shotguns.
  • Bluff the Impostor

T.K.: That first time we met at the bookstore, did you ever imagine we'd end up in a mess like this?
Yulaw: Even if I had known, I still would have done it.
T.K.: (turns gun on Yulaw) It wasn't a bookstore.

  • Bolivian Army Ending: See this.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Somewhat justified because the human shield was wearing a bulletproof vest.
  • Bullet Time: Yulaw fights at a much higher speed than normal human opponents, so he's able to beat the crap out of six SWAT officers before they even hit the ground.
  • Car Fu: Yulaw literally wields two police motorcycles like clubs and beat the living daylights out of the unfortunate cops who rode them mere seconds ago.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The mark left on Gabe's finger by his wedding band.
  • Conservation of Ninjitsu: Each time a duplicate dies, the life force is spread among the remaining duplicates. Thus, by the time there are only two left, both effectively have superpowers.
    • Also invoked at the ending, where Yulaw's apparent penalty is to fight wave after wave of inmates in a penal dimension that seems to be swarming with them.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: After Good Law finally subjugates Yulaw, he is dumped on a world like this as "reward" for his services, largely because he is now a wanted felon with no family in his home universe.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Yulaw against any non-superpowered human (excepting Roedecker).
  • Decoy Protagonist: Lawless. He's played by Jet Li, so the natural assumption from anyone who'd seen the trailer would be that he's either the hero or the villain. Turns out, he's neither.
  • Dodge the Bullet
  • Double Vision
  • Evil Redhead: Yulaw's escort/fellow conspirer, one of T.K.'s other multiverse selves, who helps him escape.
  • Good News, Bad News: First variety.

Yulaw: The good news is you're not crazy. The bad news is...[starts shooting at him]

  • Interdimensional Travel Device: There's a quantum tunneling device which allows the interdimensional police to track criminals and, obviously, allows them to travel to different universes.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Yulaw and Gabe
  • One-Man Army: Yulaw and Gabe
  • Penal Colony: A penal universe, even.
  • Permission to Speak Freely?: Parodied.
  • Red Herring: Funsch goes into a twenty-second Gun Porn-esque spiel about the high-tech machine-pistol he's carrying to Gabe Law. He gets off maybe half a dozen ineffective shots with it before it gets destroyed.
  • Redshirt Army: The SWAT teams in both versions of Los Angeles, as well as most of the multiversal police, are little more than speedbumps at best to Yulaw. The exceptions would be Rodecker and Funsch. The only time any uniformed police manage to seriously impair Yulaw is when Gabe is backing them up.
  • Richard Nixon the Used Car Salesman: Agent Roedecker dies, but his counterpart in our timeline is encountered working as a gas station attendant.
  • Rule of Cool: And nothing else.
  • Shout-Out: One of the prisoners says "he's got a pretty mouth" in the final scene. What follows, though...
  • Spotting the Thread: At one point both Gabe and Yulaw are knocked unconscious and no one can tell them apart. They have a narrow window to send the bad guy to the inescapable dimension and don't know who to send, until Agent Funsch sees the tan line from Gabe's wedding ring.
  • Super Strength: See the above example with the motorcycles. Then there's the fact that both Gabe and Yulaw are strong enough to punch each other several feet away.
  • There Can Be Only One: The premise.
  • Take a Third Option: Rather than kill Yulaw, they manage to teleport him to a prison dimension.
    • Yulaw invokes this in his scene with Roedecker.

Roedecker: [holds up bomb] First choice: give up. Second choice: die.
Yulaw: [snatches bomb] Third choice.

  • Teleportation Sickness: Even Yulaw becomes helpless after a transit between dimensions, allowing him to be arrested.
  • Tell Me How You Fight: Yulaw uses a style that favors attacking in a straight line (Xingyiquan), which reflects how focused he is on achieving his goal. Gabe uses a more circular style (Baguazhang), showing that he is more about harmony and balance. This plays directly into their duel, where Yulaw has the advantage on a straight and narrow catwalk, but gets owned once they move to more wide-open ground and Gabe is able to get behind him. (Spellings from That Other Wiki).
  • Unstoppable Rage: Subverted during the final confrontation between Gabe and Yulaw. Gabe, thoroughly enraged at T.K.'s murder, assaults Yulaw directly with raw strength and aggression, playing into Yulaw's strengths and allowing Yulaw to effectively counter and pummel him. It isn't until Gabe stops and goes into a state of controlled rage that lets him take advantage of his strengths that he's able to defeat Yulaw.
  • What Could Have Been: Originally, the film was supposed to star The Rock as the main character, but he chose to do The Scorpion King instead. Imagine two doubles giving each other the "eyebrow".
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Basically what defines Yulaw.