Who Am I?

Who Am I? (1998)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Jackie Chan
Extras: Theatrical trailer

It is a rather rare occasion when a Hollywood major like Columbia Pictures picks up the American distribution rights to a foreign film, and as such it is quite exceptional that Columbia had actually licensed the entire rights to Jackie Chan’s "Who Am I?" from Hong Kong major studio Golden Harvest Pictures. I am sure it has a lot to do with Chan’s ever growing popularity here in the US, but it also speaks for the overall quality of the film itself. And indeed, I wasn’t disappointed with this film, Jackie Chan’s second attempt to shoot a film entirely in English after his ambitious "Mr. Nice Guy", as opposed to his previous work that was shot in his native Chinese in its entirety.

Jackie Chan plays a covert ops agent who finds himself double-crossed in the searing heat of South Africa. After an unintentional fall from a Helicopter he loses consciousness and with it his entire memory. He can’t remember who he is or where he came from. Slowly native Africans help him back on his feet and initiate him in their own rites to survive the blistering heat of the Savannah. One day Jackie, who is now known to the natives as "Who Am I?" due to his constant asking, stumbles across an off-road car racing team that got lost from the infamous Paris-Dakkhar race and saves their lives by driving them to safety. Through a hilarious incident however, Jackie is unable to talk to them at the time and the surprise is even larger when eventually it turns out that this native is in fact fluent in English and well acquainted with modern life amenities. Back in the modern world, Jackie then tries to trace his life but his enemies are already on his heels.
Naively, Jackie exposes himself to them, not knowing that he is actually talking to the very people who want to see him dead. Constantly he evades his opponents, only to put them back on his trail afterwards through a phone call for supposed help. Finally, with the aid of a young reporter, Jackie is able to find out why his entire Spec Ops team was left to die in Africa, and why he himself is subjected to attempted assassinations at every turn. He uncovers a plot of espionage to obtain control over a powerful and dangerous new energy source, but he wouldn’t be Jackie Chan if didn’t know how to deal with situations like these.

Shot entirely on location in South Africa and the Netherlands, "Who Am I?" is a very picturesque movie, which creates a nice contrast to the film’s high-octane action content. Surprisingly the film starts out rather slow with little action, but as soon as Jackie enters the modern world, things go haywire and we are allowed to witness some beautifully choreographed and executed martial arts sequences. The film might not be as good as his outstanding "Mr. Nice Guy", but "Who Am I?" clearly has to rank as one of Chan’s better films, making it a must-see for every Jackie Chan fan and action film aficionado alike. Once again, Chan is wowing his fans with furious stunts that will leave you breathlessly clawing your seat. Especially some of the scenes on the roof of a Rotterdam skyscraper are absolutely breathtaking. The obligatory blooper reel at the end of the film once again reveals that all of these scenes were in fact shot on location with Jackie dangling some 50 floors above the streets of this beautiful Dutch city without a safety net. But also the scenic setting of the hotel in South Africa and Chan’s efficient abuse of the hotel’s architecture to show off some of his most elaborate Spider-Money routines is outright dazzling.

Of course, no Jackie Chan film would be complete without his charming sense of humor. Again we are allowed to behold some of the best situation comedy created for the silver screen, always maintaining Chan’s unique signature. Whenever there is nothing more left to say, a comic gesture, move or stunt resolves the scene, turning a completely serious clash into a wickedly funny, off-the-wall scenario. Columbia Home Video have given "Who Am I?" their standard treatment, presenting the film in a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> transfer on one side of the disc, while including a <$PS,pan & scan> version of the film on the disc’s flip side. Both transfers are flawless with plenty of detail and no compression artifacts. The image quality is superb with deep blacks and solid edges, while maintaining plenty of shadow detail. The film’s colors exhibit no noise or bleeding and are reproduced faithfully, creating a very organic and natural look throughout.

The film boasts a rich <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack that heightens the viewing experience and makes good use of the split surrounds. The disc also contains a <$DS,Dolby Surround> soundtrack that has slightly, but noticeably, less punch, as well as a fully dubbed French language audio track. Featuring subtitles in English and French, the disc completely ignores Spanish speaking audiences much to our dismay. There is one major problem with the soundtrack however, which I do not want to leave ignored. Although "Who Am I?" had been originally recorded in English, much of the dialogue is ADR produced, which means it has been re-recorded and the placed back into the film. Unfortunately these dialogues are sometimes completely out of sync with the images you see on screen. This is especially distracting during the film’s first minutes but quickly wears off as you get used to it.

When you watch a Jackie Chan movie, you pretty much know what you get, but since the way he presents his material is ever evolving and fresh, his films are always an interesting and highly entertaining experience. In this film Jackie has put a little less focus on his dare-devil stunts and instead takes us to exotic locations a notable novelty for Hong Kong movies to embellish this fun filled story. It is once again a perfect piece of film to show off what Jackie does best, entertain audiences with his charismatic smile and humor, as well as his unmatched martial arts skills, blending both together to create an amalgam that is known as the "Jackie Chan Factor".