Who Am I? Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1999

I may have amnesia, but I'm not stupid!
Who Am I? box art

"Who Am I?" is the other film that Jackie Chan made in 1998 (the other was the surprise hit of the fall season, "Rush Hour"). Like all of his films, the main emphasis of the film is to showcase Chan going for broke doing his own stunts with feats of superhuman agility-- character development, dialogue, and logic all take a back seat. And while it is not as technically polished as "Rush Hour", it certainly shows off more of Chan's martial arts prowess with a number of impressive and inventive action sequences.

A buried meteorite is discovered in South Africa, harboring a crystalline substance with the potential for being a limitless energy source. The United States, seeking to preserve its role as the dominant global power, sends an elite team of commandos to kidnap the scientists working on the mysterious substance and steal a computer program that holds its secrets. Though the ambush goes off without a hitch and the new energy source is in the grasp of the CIA, the helicopter ferrying the commandos is deliberately crashed in the jungle, eliminating any possible witnesses.

However, one commando named Jackie (Chan) survives. The only problem is that he has amnesia as a result of taking a tumble out of the helicopter. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself surrounded by the local natives, who rescued him and nursed him back to health. Unable to remember his own name, Jackie asks the village chief (Washington Xisolo), "Who am I?" Thinking that to be Jackie's name, the natives then refer to him as 'Whoami'. As time passes, bits and pieces of Jackie's memory slowly return to him. When he finds the wreckage of a crashed helicopter a few miles away from the village, Jackie decides that he must uncover the truth about his past, and he sets off on a journey back to civilization.

While hiking through the African savanna, Jackie comes across an attractive Japanese race car driver, Yuki (Mirai Yamamoto), who is stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire and a feverish brother suffering from a poisonous snake bite. By instinct, Jackie is able to get the sport-utility vehicle back on the road and Yuki's brother stabilized with a coconut intravenous drip (yeah, right). Not only does Jackie wind up saving Yuki's brother, but he wins the off-road race that Yuki was involved in, and becomes a media darling.

As a result of his newfound fame, Jackie's movements are tracked by a number of individuals, including a nosy reporter named Christine (Michelle Ferre), who is interested in an exclusive interview. However, there are others with more sinister intentions, including a CIA agent with dubious motives named Morgan (Ron Smerczak). Pretty soon, Jackie is on the run from a number of gun-wielding spooks and little idea of neither his history nor whom he can trust.

"Who Am I?" is good in some respects. Thankfully, the bulk of the film is shot in English, sparing the audience from the atrocious dubbing that was seen in "Mr. Nice Guy" and "Operation Condor". Jackie is also in fine form with this film demonstrating his skill much better than the anemic "Rush Hour". The film is punctuated by a number of interesting action sequences, including a topsy-turvy car chase, a no-holds-barred battle royale atop a skyscraper, and a pitched battle in the streets of Rotterdam involving wooden shoes.

Unfortunately, "Who Am I?" has many of the less than savory qualities that generally plague Jackie Chan films. In addition to the old standby of having two dopey women following Jackie around, there are the unforgivable laps of logic, the hokey basis for the film's premise, one-note villains, and some truly atrocious dialogue that would strip the paint off walls. However, despite these flaws, it is actually of better quality than a number of Jackie's other films, though not on the level of "Rumble in the Bronx", "Police Story", or "Drunken Master 2". Not surprisingly, TriStar Pictures decided not to release this film theatrically, and sent it directly to video instead.

"Who Am I?" certainly won't win any awards, and doesn't do favors for anyone's career. However, it is a no-brainer popcorn flick that manages to entertain in spite of itself. And as usual, some of the best material is found in the outtake reel just before the end credits.

Images courtesy of TriStar Pictures. All rights reserved.

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