Who Am I? (Hong Kong, 1998)

Jackie Chan has lost his memory and goes on a globe-trotting adventure to find his identity in this action-packed film from the late Benny Chan.

A band of commandos on an assignment to trail a new energy source. However, a double cross leads to the helicopter carrying the commandos to crash in South Africa. All but one of the agents is killed in the crash. However, the survivor has lost his memory and when he is approached by a local tribe, all the survivor can ask is “Who Am I”, which the tribe has assumed is his name. Months pass and when a young car racer, Aiji, is bit by a snake, Who Am I comes to the rescue and saves Aiji. Aiji’s sister Yuki is grateful and Who Am I helps them finish the local race.

Arriving in Johannesburg, Who Am I meets a journalist, Christine Stark, who wants to interview him about the race. When CIA agent Morgan learns of Who Am I, he tells him that he can help if needed but in actuality, it was Morgan who set up the double cross that caused Who Am I to lose his memory. When Christine helps Who Am I crack a secret code, the journey takes the duo to Rotterdam, where Who Am I learns some shocking truths, including whom he can trust and why he was double-crossed in the first place. Will Who Am I find out who he really is, or will he end up dying while finding out?

After the 1994 monster smash that is Drunken Master II, Jackie Chan finally found his ticket to Hollywood on his own terms with Rumble in the Bronx, which led to the success of Rush Hour. However, between those two films, Chan would go on to make the first of a few epic collaborations with the recently departed director Benny Chan. The story of a former commando with amnesia attempting to find his identity leads him to South Africa and the Netherlands which leads to some of Chan’s best action sequences that features fun vehicle scenes and an epic showdown in Rotterdam.

Jackie Chan plays the titular “Who Am I”, whose identity is revealed to the CIA eyes as [surprise] his namesake. When we see Who Am I help out Japanese car racer Yuki, played by Mirai Yamamoto, Chan sports traditional African tribal make-up and dress. However, he spends most of the movie sporting a leather jacket and casual wear as he attempts to find himself…literally. Michelle Ferre proves that “art imitates life” in her role as correspondent Christine as she would go on to work as a correspondent for CNN and act in one more film before hanging it up in 2006.

South African actor Ron Smerczak is viciously evil and slick in the role of CIA agent Morgan. He pretends to be Who Am I’s ally but soon enough, as with most Chan films, we learn he is actually the villain early on. However, it is oblivious to Who Am I for most of the film until the third act. It is once that third act hits and Who Am I knows the truth that things go insane. However, just before this pivotal scene, we do get a treat in the form of a chase scene like no other.

While the first two acts of the film have some minimal fight action but relies more on some insane car racing and car action sequences, the third act set in Rotterdam is where things pick up in the fight department. A hilarious foot chase leads to Chan using clogs to defend himself against the likes of South African actor David Vlok and his group of thugs, comprised of both South African and Dutch actors and stuntmen.

However, the best action scene is a two-on-one on top of the Nedlloyd building which Chan takes on Kwan Yung (as a Choy Lee Fut expert) and the debuting Ron Smoorenburg (as the superkicker). This is perhaps one of Chan’s most epic modern fights on screen, and while Smoorenburg did have some trouble at first with the choreography, he eventually would find his step and become a stuntman and actor in Hong Kong before returning home to the Netherlands before making his impact in Thailand’s action cinema, where he still holds his ground today. As if that’s not enough, Chan does one of the most insane stunts in his career after this fight scene, where to evade some more thugs, he slides down the slant of the Nedlloyd building with practically no wires or harnesses. This shows his insanity and dedication to entertain the action film fans.

Who Am I? is a Jackie Chan modern day epic where he gives the audience what they want, an epic fight followed by an epic stunt to show fans he’s still got it!

WFG RATING: A

A Golden Harvest production. Directors: Benny Chan and Jackie Chan. Producer: Barbie Tung. Writers: Jackie Chan, Susan Chan, and Lee Reynolds. Cinematography: Poon Hang-Sang.  Editing: Peter Cheung and Yau Chi-Wai.

Cast: Jackie Chan, Michelle Ferre, Mirai Yamamoto, Ron Smerczak, Ed Nelson, Russ Price, Kane Kosugi, Steve Brettingham, Yung Kwan, Ron Smoorenburg.

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