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Who Am I? (1998)

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[Movie Reviews]


-Jackie Chan
-Michelle Ferre
-Ron Smerczak


Jackie Chan is formerly part of a secret task force. He finds himself hurt and being taken care of by a native African tribe. When trying to talk to the tribe, he realizes that he has lost his memory, unable to even remember his own name. He spends much time recovering with the tribe, during which they find some cryptic clues to his past. He finally sees a road rally going through the region and, after helping out one of the racers who is stranded and wounded, makes it back to a major city in South Africa. Here, he becomes big news and some people who are involved with the operation he got lost on find him. Afraid he may regain his memory and give out incriminating information, he becomes a target for these people. Jackie must try find out about his past and why these people want to kill him.


Who Am I? is a very interesting movie with significant flaws. This was Jackie's biggest project (budget and scope-wise) at the time and it was shot almost entirely in English. It is a good, universally appealing action film. It has an interesting, if not entirely unique, plot with some good twists as well as some decent stunts and action from our main man. It is a film that could be such a big thing, were it not for some flaws, particularly in the acting department.

The biggest thing to note about this film is the plot. While I often disagree on the opinion that plots are not what matters in Jackie films and that his films are only about action (movies like Dragons Forever and Miracles disprove this, I believe) - it is obvious that in Who Am I? there was definitely a bigger focus on plot. They obviously wanted a plot with greater scope, some secrecy, and some twists. In many ways, the film succeeds. It certainly does have one of the more interesting plots of a Chan film, and there is a lot that is kept back to give the film and the character some secrecy. But, the film does end up falling to some action movie cliches as well as some cheese, here and there. The villains are kind of goofy, too. Still, the movie keeps the viewer interested and is paced very well. The American version of the film messes this up a little toward the beggining, as they cut the African tribe sequence significantly as well as place Jackie's flashbacks at the begginging, where they would happen in chronological order. This does not, by any means, ruin the film - but it is certainly more interesting in its original form.

The action in Who Am I is decent, as expected from Jackie. Certainly not on par with some of his Police Story films and no fights that will make you put down your copy of Drunken Master II. But, the action is adequate nonetheless. Action ranges from car chases to multi-fights to an impressive one-on-one fight near the film's climax. The car chase actually ends up being quite memorable. This isn't Jackie's work, but very cool indeed. It starts out very amusingly with three people packed tightly into the car, Jackie sitting with the gear shift between his legs. Watching the three trying to coordinate their efforts to maneuver the car is quite a laugh. Then Mirai Yamamoto's character gets in the drivers seat and does some cool maneuvering to throw off their pursuers. The foot chases and multi fights in the film are about average for a Jackie film. Nothing exceptional, but plenty amusing if you like Jackie's style. The most memorable moment during the multi-fights is when Jackie fights a villain with some wooden shoes. In the end, though, the part that most people will look forward to is the rooftop battle near the end. Jackie fights two villians one-on-one and then takes them both on. The fight with the second villain is especially cool, as Jackie's opponent uses some awesome kick moves. So, while it is not Jackie's best work in the action department, it is very good and will keep Chan fans happy.

The major unfortunate flaw that hurts the film is much of the acting. While Jackie himself is as good as usual, many of the supporting characters are pretty bad. Michelle Ferre, playing an undercover reporter, is quite cute - but doesn't seem to be able to match her looks with her acting. Mirai Yamamoto is a little better in the acting department, but not much. She has the bigger disadvantage of being one of those annoying side characters, too. The two main villains are not too bad in their roles, but not so great either. They get the job done, but won't send any chills down your spine. The thugs that work for the main villains, though, are very goofy - much like you've seen in other Jackie films. Also, you will notice that the CIA meeting near the beginning is dubbed horribly. This is present in both the U.S. and HK versions. It is obvious that they are speaking the same english words but the lipsynch is completely off and the voices sound like a bad cartoon. Luckily, this is only a small segment of the film. Overall, it is a shame to see bad acting severely hurt what could be such a great movie.

Who Am I is one of those films that does plenty right only to bring itself back down by doing a lot wrong. It definitely has a greater scope than many of Chan's earlier efforts. And regardless of a few cheesy bits, the plot managed to be interesting and had more to it than most Chan films. Action gets the job done and will be enough to keep Jackie's fans satisfied. Unfortunately, with a film of this scope - it is hard to believe they threw it together with such bad acting. Imagine this film with good acting and some better villains and we would have something that could have been one of Jackie's breakthrough films. Unfortunately, that is not so. So, we are left with a good Jackie film that you will want to check out for its story and some good old Jackie Chan. If you do not expect too much, you will be able to enjoy Jackie and a good plot.


-Benny Chan, Jackie Chan


-Original English language.