Who Am I? (1998)
Who Am I? (1998)

Genre: Action Comedy and Martial Arts Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

Release Date: September 11th, 1998 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jackie Chan, Benny Chan Actors: Jackie Chan, Michelle Ferre, Mirai Yamamoto, Ron Smerczak, Ed Nelson, Tom Pompert, Gloria Simon, Johan van Ditmarsch, Fritz Krommenhoek

 


 

A

team of miners uncovers a huge chunk of a highly volatile metal from an underground cavern in the desert, prompting the need for an immediate delivery to the neighboring city. But the driver’s recklessness causes the sample to explode during the journey. Later, across Augrabies and into Kakamas, South Africa, a multinational Special Forces platoon is deployed to ambush troops and rescue three scientists. But after the mission is complete, the highly trained squadron is double-crossed by crooked CIA agents, who abscond with the researchers and order the execution of the soldiers as they depart in an Army helicopter (orchestrated to be pilotless and to eventually crash).

Back in the U.S., CIA Agent Morgan Stollman (Ron Smerczak) is assigned to get to the bottom of the South African blunder and betrayal, and ensure that the scientists are retrieved. Meanwhile, Hong Kong representative Jackie Chan (Jackie Chan, using his own name in a fictional context), one of the Special Forces members who survived the helicopter crash, awakes in a native village, unable to communicate and suffering from severe amnesia (which makes him forget his recent activities and his name, but not his specific set of skills). He’s welcomed to the tribe and given the name “Who Am I,” before finding a stranded brother and sister (Yuki, played by Mirai Yamamoto) racing team, with a broken down car, which he uses to drive through Namibia and back into civilization. Having saved the life of the brother (who was bitten by a poisonous critter), Who Am I also ends up in the newspaper, attracting the attention of South African Tribune journalist Christine Stark (Michelle Ferre) – and the backstabbing army general who ordered the sabotage over a $500 million arms deal.

As is standard with Jackie Chan’s late ‘90s pictures, elite military operatives, espionage, and corrupt government officials fuel the plot (global conflict overtakes his earlier setups of small community squabbles), even though the initial premise is typically relevant merely as an introduction to the locations for action. Here, the unnecessarily complex script is written by Chan himself, and actually interferes with the arrival of the martial arts sequences. 45 minutes pass before the first real hand-to-hand fight occurs. It’s evident that Chan is trying to tell an involving tale instead of simply cutting to the chase, but the result is an overlong project that can’t focus on either notion competently.

What does work consistently well is the abundance of comedy mixed into the adventure. In fact, the majority of the setup involves mistaken identities, funny language barriers, and clever survival tactics (such as constructing an intravenous apparatus with a coconut and spare car parts), all utilizing humor more than action. The escape maneuvering is more about pantomiming and slapstick than landing punches, and the advanced technology used by the CIA is even designed specifically to avoid seriously injuring the targets, providing opportunities for further non-heavy-hitting combat.

When the furious fists and kicks do appear, they similarly contain artistic staging and low levels of violence – excitement instead of realism. In fact, Chan manages not to inflict major damage to any of his opponents (except, perhaps, during the outtakes). Tussles in front of some amazing Rotterdam locales, rip-roaring car chases, and all manner of physical feats by Chan (who coordinated the stunts while also serving as the film’s director) make “Who Am I?” a magnificent episode to watch, even though the fights are relatively infrequent – with the saving of puppies more prominent than firefights and rumbles. Nevertheless, the rooftop showdown, featuring a hysterical moment in which a thug removes his tie after witnessing Chan abuse a well-suited cohort, is absolutely not to be missed.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10