Imagine the scene. A bunch of Hollywood suits are sitting around a conference table, brainstorming ideas for a new movie vehicle for WWF beefcake The Rock, when one of them comes up with a radical suggestion: What about having not one, not two, but 123 different Rocks?
It's a great idea made even better after The Rock sidestepped the project and martial arts legend Jet Li took over. Sadly budgetary constraints mean that The One takes place after all but two of Li's doppelgängers have carked it - a real shame since the sight of an army of Jet Lis slugging it out would have been worth the price of multiple tickets on its own.
Gambling everything on cult status, Final Destination director James Wong goes for broke with a wonderfully far-fetched plot. It's the not too distant future, and scientists have discovered a `multiverse' of interconnected dimensions which can be accessed via a series of wormholes. Everything is harmonious in these worlds until Yulaw (aka evil Jet Li) decides to kill off all his alter egos and become The One - a superhuman demigod. Only one man can stop him, and that's his final double, Gabe (aka good Jet Li).
So far, so comic book, but Wong adds real muscle to the high concept with a string of truly excessive action sequences. How excessive? Well, the two remaining Lis are blessed with the strength of all their dead doubles, meaning they get to use police motorcycles as nunchakus, leap tall buildings in a single bound and - in what has to be a cinematic first - turn a hospital's MRI machine into a deadly weapon. It's like an insane Japanese Manga flick in live action.
But it's when the movie enters its final act - complete with Highlander-esque shouts of "There can be only One!" - that Wong lets the film tip overinto high camp as he cranks up the bizarre trash-metal soundtrack to a deafening roar. This baby's obviously intent on having a memorable ending or it'll die trying - if it can't become famous it'll at least be infamous. The last 20 minutes bolts together every fight sequence cliche known to man, throws in a pointless chunk of male bonding and then goes for a lavish, pull-out ending designed to con you into thinking you've just watched a much more expensive movie. It's breathtakingly ballsy.
But there's a downside to all this gleefully silly mayhem - the actors are forced out of the frame by effects. Delroy Lindo and Jason Statham, for example, are barely allowed to make an impression as the inter-dimensional cops sent to capture Yulaw. But far worse is the fact that Li's supremely graceful martial arts skills are swamped by CG pyrotechnics, the filmmakers seemingly intent on `enlivening' each and every fight scene with computer trickery. Having the best chop-socky guy in the business just isn't enough for some people.
Only lovers of the utterly ridiculous need apply, as James Wong and Jet Li cook up the trashiest sci-fi dust-'em-up of this or any other year. Superbly OTT action just about wins out over annoyingly OTT CGI.