Who Am I? - Jackie Chan's productive career enjoyed many cinematic releases in the West in the 90's. However, all the movies to hit the big screens starred comedy sidekicks such as Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson and were funded by US companies. All Cantonese productions were sadly sent straight to video, regardless of their success in the East (Who Am I? - box office = HK $38,852,000). Who Am I? was released in 1998 and was sandwiched between Mr Nice Guy and Gorgeous. Jackie directed this film alongside Benny Chan and choreographed the movie with the JC Stunt Team (Sing Ga Ban won the Best Action Choreography at 18th HKFA). The film introduced a very fresh cast including the high kicking Dutchman Ron Smoorenburg and Kwan Yeung. The two dazzling femmes (whose combined age is probably younger than Jackie!) were Michelle Ferre and Mirai Yamamoto.
What the film lacks in well known supporting names it compensates in
location and scenery. Along with the Armour of God series, this is a well-travelled
movie including scenes in Central and South Africa and the Netherlands.
The basic pretence of the movie and the varied choice of location are
remarkably similar to the later work Accidental Spy. The comparisons do
not stop there; both works have been noted for individual moments of brilliance
but also for Jackie appearing a bit 'battle-fatigued' after four decades
in the industry. This fatigue has been more evident in Jackie's Asian
films, as they are more action orientated and less likely to use stunt
doubles and CGI.
There is an underlying message of 'Save the Environment' lurking in this film, but the plot can appear murky a times as Jackie tries to combine international family entertainment with an espionage / amnesia suspense yarn. Jackie is part of an international covert force trying to prevent the use and distribution of a new mineral with explosive capacities! Naturally, the operation goes wrong and Jackie is the only survivor but he has suffered short-term memory loss. His adventure takes him from an African tribe (who calls him 'Whoami') to a rally where he saves the life of Yamamoto's co-driver who has snakebite. On his travels from South Africa to Rotterdam he meets pushy reporter Michelle Ferre and has a several skirmishes with generic henchmen before the finale on a skyscraper in Rotterdam.
The action is quite evenly placed throughout the movie and there is a nice balance between stuntwork, action / car chase and fighting. The highlights are the car chase through the streets of Rotterdam, the clog fight (as only Jackie could!), the end fight against Smoorenburg + Yeung and the remarkable closing stunt. The car chase is one of the best Jackie has committed to print; it is more akin to the action in Thunderbolt than the Police Story series. As with all Jackie car chases (see Armour of God, Wheels on Meals etc) the bad guys drive in black saloons and surprise, surprise Jackie drives a Mitsubishi! It is as guilty as hell of under-cranking but there are some nice moves and a mandatory fruit and veg stand to destroy.
The fighting is quite standard including a light-hearted
encounter with Jackie wearing clogs, but the real fighting begins when
Jackie is confronted on the roof by two henchmen. These are Smoorenburg
and Yeung. The following action is Jackie's best since his scintillating
encounter with Ken Lo in Drunken
Master 2. Smoorenburg's kicking is particularly exceptional as he
was picked from obscurity for the piece. Jackie was not entirely happy
with Ron's timing during the shoot and the eagle-eyed viewer will actually
spot Brad Allen filling in at some points. Considering Allen is probably
12 inches (30cm) shorter than Ron, it is a surprisingly seamless transition
between the fighters. The final stunt will also rate as one of Jackie's
finest as he throws himself down the sloping side of a skyscraper. It
is always reassuring to see him risk his life once more for our entertainment!
The disc is satisfactory, but unspectacular. It is desperately missing a Cantonese audio track. The picture is adequate and the extras are minimal.
The film has its faults and it will never feature in many
people's Top 5 Jackie films. Ever since Drunken Master 2 his films have
lost that raw edge and been replaced by a more international and family
entertainment feel. This can even be traced back to the Armour of God
series and Twin Dragons. His character has also become a loveable and
naïve rogue as opposed to his determined maniac roles of the 80's.
Many have renounced his work in the 90's as 'goofy' comedy, it is still
nigh impossible to escape the infectious enthusiasm that he brings to
his movies. There are moments when Jackie seems weary in this movie but
the scenery and set pieces more than accommodate for this. The only film
that outgrossed Who Am I? in 1998 was Storm Riders however I would guess
this film will age better than Storm Riders which is already beginning
to look dated. Who Am I? rates alongside Rumble in the Bronx and Thunderbolt
as Jackie's finest 'post-Drunken Master 2' works and contains what will
probably be one of his last great fights and break-neck stunts.