November 28, 2003

who am i? (1998)

director: jackie chan/benny chan
starring: jackie chan, michelle ferre, mirai yamamoto, ron smerczak

jackie chan's last hong kong film before hitting it big in the states with rush hour is a huge mess, plagued by a dopey amnesia plot and some of the worst acting ever in a chan film. still, when the action kicks in, chan delivers in droves, and the final half hour almost makes up for everything else. and that's all we really care about in a jackie chan film, right?

jackie is, naturally, jackie chan, a member of an elite special ops force who are sent to south africa to retrieve scientists working on harnassing fragments of a crashed meteorite that possess huge amounts of unstable energy. after the mission is complete, the squad is doublecrossed while returning on their helicopter, and in the ensuing struggle, jackie falls out of the chopper and wakes up without his memory.

luckily, he's dicovered by a local tribe, and they nurse him back to health. there are some language differences, so when he responds 'who am i?' to what his name is, they dub him that. a few days later, after he's finally on his feet, some trucks are spotted outside the camp. jackie raises his hands and yells, 'i'm saved.' and that's when things get a bit weird. because in the very next scene, we see jackie in full tribal gear and face paint running around with a spear.

apparently the folks over at columbia-tristar decided to cut out about nine minutes of the film. now, all of jackie's films in the mid-90s that made it over here were cut by 20-30 minutes, so that doesn't seem so bad. well, they apparently decided to cut out some major plot points, such as why he doesn't get saved and ends up a full-fledged family member of the tribe. for all of the crowing about miramax and their cuts to hong kong films, this has to rank as one of the most jarring cuts ever made. there are numerous 'wtf?' moments throughout the movie that are explained by the deleted scenes, and it totally disrupts the flow of the movie at times.

not that this really matters, because as a movie, this is pretty laughable stuff. jackie hightails it back to civilization after a chance encounter with a stranded offroads racer (mirai yamamoto) and helps her win the race, thus getting his picture in the local paper. from there, everybody from reporters, the cia, and the bad guys who doublecrossed him are after him. chases and globetrotting from south africa to rotterdam ensue.

the two female leads are simply awful. mirai yamamoto doesn't even really seem like she's trying, and christine ferre, playing a reporter, is cute and perky to the point of being extremely irritating. ron smerczak (operation delta force 5: random fire) is morgan, your standard sneering villian who is accompanied by some of the worst acting henchmen ever filmed. i imagine that most of the supporting cast were from south africa and holland, and their stilted delivery of lines is jaw-droppingly bad. it makes the cast of mr. nice guy look like classically trained actors.

but if you can make it through the first hour of the film, the last forty minutes deliver some of that jackie chan goodness that we've all come to know and love. there's a wacky car chase (complete with a car spinning around on its side), numerous prop fights, and an honest-to-god final duel against not one but two baddies (david leung and ron smoorenburg, who happens to hold holland's record for highest kick). the big brawl at the end runs for a good ten minutes and is classic chan, topped off with one of his trademarked insane stunts.

also notable is the absence of jackie driving a giant vehicle to crush the bad guys, a welcome change from some of his other flicks from this era. a very forgettable film, who am i delivers in the action arena in its final act, but everything else is best forgotten.

rating: 5/10


dvd (region 1)
columbia tri-star
english/french language tracks and subtitles

this is a pretty barebones dvd, with the only special feature being a trailer for the film. the picture quality is fine, and the english track is in 5.1. the uncut movie is available in an all-region version from universe laser out of hong kong, but it only contains cantonese and mandarin tracks, so, since the film was shot in english, i don't know of a complete version of the film with the original language track.

Posted by kilgore at November 28, 2003 05:42 AM | TrackBack
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