Review: Who Am I? (1998)

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Starring Jackie Chan, Ron Smerczak, Ron Smoorenburg, Kwan Yung, Michelle Ferre, Mirai Yamamoto, Ken Lo, Kane Kosugi, Ed Nelson

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Benny Chan

The 1990’s is really the last major time that Jackie Chan’s cinematic output was really good. There were some pandering to western audiences, even with his Hong Kong output, but his skills were still way up there, even though he was showing small signs of decline. One of his final films before the new millennium would see some of the things that make Jackie Chan films great, and things that ensure that there is no way any of those films would win an award for acting. Such is the case with Who am I?

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Jackie plays, well, Jackie, an agent working alongside an international group of soldiers for the CIA under the command of Morgan (Smerczak), and they are tasked with kidnapping several scientists who are using an unstable new ore to create a new power source. The plan goes well, but the team is betrayed, and all are killed except for Jackie, who finds himself saved by an African tribe, and also suffers memory loss. After living with the tribe for a time, they are able to find the wreckage of his helicopter, and the bodies of his friends. Jackie’s memories are fragmented, but he does somewhat remember them. After joining a road race, and finishing first, Jackie goes on a mission to find out what happened to him and the scientists, which puts him in the crosshairs of Morgan and General Sherman (Nelson), who have their own uses for the scientists. Jackie never knows who to trust, and even the most unlikeliest people pose the greatest threat…

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Who am I? is a really fun, rollicking film that despite its premise is a grand time, and without a doubt one of JC’s best 90’s films. The story is basic and somewhat predictable, but Jackie is able to play the character well, even in the dramatic moments, save for a few moments where he tries to go “Academy Awards” and winds up going all Darth Vader “Noooooooooooo!” on us. But I have to say, while the acting in his films has been passable, there are two actors who were mind-stabbingly bad. That would be Mirai Yamamoto and Michelle Ferre, playing the female leads respectively. Gorgeous women to be sure, but both of them were nails-on-a-chalkboard terrible. In the case of Michelle Ferre I get that as she actually WAS a reporter, and not an actress, so I’m more forgiving of her part. JC was wrong to put her in the film regardless of how much he liked her or how cute she was. Ron Smerczak was really good as Morgan, creating a more serious foe for JC than he’d had in a while. What bothered me about his performance is that there are several lines where you know he was dubbed for some odd reason. That actually goes for other characters in the film in some spots. It just pulled me out of the film.
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The fights and the stunts are the things to see here, just like in the best of Jackie Chan movies, and there is no lack of it here, with car stunts, avoiding getting crushed by a piano stunt, and the terrific slide down the side of a skyscraper with no wires (try that, Tom Cruise). The choreography is well done, and start off small but they end in what is one of JC’s last truly great fights:

Jackie Chan versus Ron Smoorenburg and Kwan Yung.

This rooftop fight is absolutely fantastic, with both men specializing in arts the emphasize fists for one and feet for the other. Ron Smoorenburg is terrific here, and takes his place alongside some of the best super-kickers to ever fight Jackie Chan going all the way back to Hwang Jang Lee. If there is a particular reason I could give you to see this film, this is it. The fight is fast, furious, funny, and just plain epic.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

A good James Bond-esque adventure that features some truly terrible acting but one of the best onscreen fights of Jackie’s 90’s output. I recommend it! 

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