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Jackie Chan, a top secret militant soldier, crashes into the South African jungle after his mission of kidnapping three scientists (who were experimenting with a powerful mineral) has gone array. Waking up in a village of local natives, Chan has no memory of who he is, thus being addressed as "Who Am I". His journey with aid from two female sidekicks to find out his identity leads him all the way to Rotterdam where he coincidentally discovers the location of the organization that kidnapped the three scientists. With no memory, Chan is thirsty for answers by any means necessary. Written by
In the tradition of every Jackie Chan film, outtakes appear under the end credits. All of Jackie's outtakes involve bloopers only. The only injury on the outtakes is a stunt driver being brought out on a stretcher. See more »
Jackie Chan plays a "special forces" agent in this action/adventure film that is as concerned with spoofing the genre as it is with embracing it. The film starts with Chan and fellow agents descending on a convoy through the "South African jungle" to abscond a handful of scientists who have been working on exploiting unusual properties of a mineral found in the South African mines. With the aid of extensive training and sophisticated technological gadgetry, they complete their mission successfully. But someone in the "squad" is double crossing them. As the men are headed for recreational leave, they're sabotaged. Chan makes it out alive, but barely. He hits his head and acquires amnesia. The bulk of the film has him coping with his situation--he first ends up in the middle of a traditional South African community--while government agents try to track him down and kill him.
There are some details I could not fill in above, because the primary flaw with the film, and this is what brought my score down to an 8, or a "B", rather than a 9 or 10, is that the story is almost absurdly convoluted and difficult to glean (there was also a fair amount of ridiculous English dubbing in the version I saw--it was difficult to tell how intentional the "problems" with the dubbing may have been). But the story isn't really the point; and to the extent that it is, the point may be to make it absurdly convoluted and difficult to glean--this is to a large extent a spoof, after all. More important, the story propels the film from one jaw dropping, action-filled set piece to the next. On a surface level, at least, those set pieces are the raison d'etre of Who Am I. But surprisingly perhaps, Chan, who co-directed and co-wrote the film in addition to starring in it, also has a lot of interesting subtextual things to say.
Most viewers will come to this film as Chan fans. As such, they'll be hoping to see his "trademark" martial arts abilities, impressive stunt work and notorious sense of humor; they will not leave disappointed. During the climax, Who Am I has one of the longer extended martial arts sequences in any Chan film, and it unexpectedly gets back to the basics. For at least ten minutes, Chan fights just two "big baddies" who are close matches in skill. He uses relatively few props and relies very little on moving about his environment in fancy ways.
Of course, there are plenty of props and a lot of well-choreographed, complicated blocking elsewhere. A few of these more ostentatious scenes are intentionally hilarious in their absurdity. One of the most memorable spoof scenes involves an extended car chase. Chan imports physics from an alternate universe for about half of this sequence.
As an adventure film, Who Am I presents a kind of James Bond-like travelogue. We go from the jungles of Malaysia (doubling as South Africa) to the South African plains (where Chan disguises himself as a tribesman) to Namibia for a cross-country 4 x 4 race (partially across what looks like the Etosha Pan) to the Netherlands. Those familiar with South Africa will find it amusing that during one sequence, Chan and the cohorts he picks up along the way travel from the Sun City's Lost City to downtown Johannesburg to Pretoria in a matter of minutes. But this is the movies, after all, and a fantastical work of fiction at that. The varied environments were very well chosen, providing a lot of eye candy while also providing great fodder for comic and action scenes.
While it's funny that Chan's character (who is referred to as "Jackie Chan" at one point) comes to be known as "Whoami" once amnesia sets in, there is much more intended than a silly comic device. It's significant that the film is set in South Africa, a nation with a complicated multicultural history and not a little turmoil over the same. The title isn't just a reference to amnesia or Chan's character; it's a rhetorical question about cultural and ethnic identity. The members of Chan's special forces squadron were all loaded with different passports from different countries. They were told to forget their identities. It's never clear who they were, where they came from or who they were working for--a point is made to not let the audience know, and to not even let us know whether they were "good guys" or not.
Chan has to fit into tribal culture. He becomes associated with a Chinese race team in or near Namibia, and then befriends a reporter who appears half Asian and half Caucasian. The American CIA is prominent in the film. They have their hands in every culture shown in the film. There are subtexts about globalism and how first world technology is affecting the development of non-first world countries. The ease of travel, symbolizing ethnic mobility, is a prominent theme. Chan makes sure that the film ends in the Netherlands, which has had a strong presence and influence in South Africa for hundreds of years. The villainy in the film is centered on building better weapons, which of course tend to be used to annihilate persons from opposing cultures or ethnicities. Cultural and ethnic identity has become far more complex in the last couple centuries than it ever was before, even if it was never the clear issue that many people around the world assume it to be.
That the film is able to bring up such interesting issues, all while awing us with graceful action sequences and making us laugh, makes Who Am I a very enjoyable experience. Chan fans shouldn't miss this one.
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