The One

As befitting a movie about parallel universes and multiple identities, “The One” tries to be several things: a martial-arts film, a “Matrix”-inspired sci-fi flick, and a regular ol’ action movie. But, as we learned in “Highlander” (and as is reiterated in this movie), “There can be only one.” Most films that attempt to mix genres fail at it, and “The One” certainly does not buck that trend.

The deal here is that each of us has a counterpart in at least 124 other universes, which is fine, because we don’t communicate much with those universes. But now there’s a bad guy named Yulaw (Jet Li) who is traveling from universe to universe, killing off his Doppelgangers and absorbing their life force. It is believed that if he succeeds in murdering them all, it will either destroy whichever universe he happens to be in at the moment, or else he will become a god. Either way, bad news.

So two melodramatic cops (Jason Statham and Delroy Lindo) are pursuing him, and they wind up in the universe you and I inhabit, where the local Yulaw look-alike is an L.A. police officer named Gabriel. We don’t know about parallel universes here, so he’s extra-freaked out that a guy who looks just like him is trying to kill him. His wife, T.K. (Carla Gugino), is equally wigged, and has a heck of a time keeping track of which guy is her husband and which one is the bad guy.

You’d expect there to be a lot of martial arts fighting, but you shouldn’t, because there are only about three scenes of it. Instead, there’s a whole lot of slow-motion “Matrix”-type stuff, which is getting a little old, frankly. It’s hard to be impressed with an amazing fighter like Jet Li’s athletic abilities when it’s so clearly digitized and special-effected. We’ve learned that, thanks to technology, ANYONE can look like an expert, and it’s a disservice to Li, who actually is one.

We should also point out that if you’re going to have an actor play multiple roles in your movie, you ought to choose someone with more charisma than Jet Li, who has a certain charm about him, but who certainly does not carry a move on his own.

I am duly respectful of the effort it takes to pull off special effects like the ones in this movie, and it’s exciting to contemplate what the future of filmmaking may be. But — and you can call me old-fashioned if you want — it would still be nice to have a decent script now and then, too.

This one, by Glen Morgan and James Wong (Wong also directed), is especially disappointing because those two did such great work on “The X-Files” and in last year’s funny-if-you-got-the-joke “Final Destination.” “The One,” by comparison, is too serious about itself and its silly concept, and it offers nothing beyond the fight sequences we’ve seen before.

C (; PG-13, scattered profanity and a LOT of violence -- enough to warrant an R rating, I think.)