International action superstar Jackie Chan once again shows us his thrilling stunts. Recruited by hte CIA to join an international team of super-commandos, Jackie is left in a village in South Africa with no memory after his team were set up. One day he saves two participants of a road rally, and his exploits are reported in a local newspaper. Having seen Jackie's picture the villains track him down to kill him. Putting together different pieces of the puzzle, Jackie flies to Rotterdam to meet the villains, with the aim of finding out his true identity.
This version is approximately 17 minutes longer than the region 2 british release, and also the scenes are in the correct order in this version. In the region 2 version some of the scenes were moved position to make the plot more straight forward and requiring less thought. This version is by far the better version with many more scenes with the native African tribe.
Who Am I? is a strange film as far as Jackie Chan film's go. Why? Well, because he quite clearly is trying to get a plot into this film! In my opinion there are more resembelences to a plot here than in several other of his films combined. Ok, so that is a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea! For me though, the plot is not the main reason to watch a Jackie Chan film. With him it is the action and the humour that are the most important. And does this film deliver? I think, yes it does.
I bought this Hong Kong version of the film as I discovered that it was something like 15-20 minutes longer than the British region 2 version which I used to own, and that it was supposed to be uncut. That was enough of an incentive for me to flog on the region 2 version then buy this, as I was desperate to see what the minutes that were cut out contained. I was hoping for another fight scene or something like that, and in that department I was disappointed. However what I got instead I've got to say was still good, as it was entertaining and still interesting, and I honestly do not know why the scenes were not included in the British version.
I mentioned at the beginning that there actually was a plot (of sorts) in this film. As this is a bit of a rarity I won't waste any time in mentioning it. Actually, yes I will, I'm going to waste time in telling you firstly that it is quite a simple plot and relatively straight forward, so don't go looking for something to rival The Usual Suspects or Seven or anything like that! Anyway, where was I... Chan plays Jackie Chan a member of an elite military group who are responsible for the kidnapping of 3 scientists working on a rock which contains tremendous power. The military unit is an elite group of men who are trained to have no identity should any problems arise. Once they have completed their mission, however, they are double crossed and abandoned in a pilotless and unmanouverable helicopter, which is a certainty to crash. Chan luckily falls from the helicopter into the jungle below, where he is rescued by a native tribe. In the fall he injured himself so badly that he loses his memory. They rehabilitate him, and despite their extreme difficulty communicating with each other, they all get on well. One day Chan sees a rally race taking place in the desert, comes to the aid of Yuki (Mirai Yamamoto) and finds his way back to civilisation. However, the people who double crossed him find out that he is still alive and intend to finish what they had started. Chan soon becomes aware that there are people out to kill him, but he has no idea why, who they are, or even who he is! To make matters worse he does not know who he can and can not trust. With the help of a 'reporter' (Michelle Ferre) he tries to discover what is going on, and his search takes him from Africa to Rotterdam, where the truth about who people are and who is on his side comes to light...
I did say that it wasn't a complex plot, but there is still one there nonetheless!
The first thing that became apparent when I was watching this film, is the difference between the HK version and the British version. This HK version is apparently uncut, but I was shocked when a scene that was in the British region 2 version failed to appear when I was expecting it. In the region 2 version at the start the military group carry out their mission, are on their way out, get double crossed and then you see the struggle in the helicopter and the crash, it cuts to the american military people going over what has happened, then cut back to Jackie who has now been rescued by the natives. In this verion you see them complete the mission, and them being debriefed, then it cuts to the american military people, and then Jackie with the natives, with no explanation as to how he got there! At first I thought "Why the hell have they cut that?!", and then as I watched more of the film it became quite apparent. They had not infact cut the scene, it merely appeared in a different place in the film, and I am now to suspect that it is the region 2 version which is guilty of moving the scene. With the region 2 version everything that is going on is spoon fed to you. You see what happens, who is the bad guy, what has happened to Jackie, no brain work involved. With the HK version this is not the case. You do not know what has happened to Jackie, or who the bad guys are, and if I did not already know what happens in the film, I would not have known for certain what the true side of all the main people in the film was until near the end, unlike with the region 2 version. Who ever made the decision to alter the region 2 version obviously does not think much about westners ability to think and understand films! Believe me this version is better structured.
So another question I have to ask myself, are the 15-20 minutes of cut footage worth it? Again yes they are. The vast majority of the footage is from the scenes with the African tribe. You see more of Jackie bonding with the members of the tribe, in particular one of the children. You see Jackie being accepted into the tribe and more interaction between them. Why these scenes were cut I honestly do not know. They are not violent, and I've seen far worse and more boring crap in other films.
Right now onto the fights and the action. Well the fight scenes that are hear are a little few and far between. Fortunately what we lack in quantity is made up for in quality. There are three main fight scenes in the film, the first is when he is being questioned by the police, handcuffed beind his back we soon see Chan do what he does best: that is use everything and anything around him as a weapon. The second is in the streets of Rotterdam. This one is highly memorable as I don't ever recall ever seeing a martial arts scene involving clogs before! The last and by far the best though takes place on the building roof near the end. Jackie against two guys, one another chinese fighter, the other an incredibly lanky, tall, outstandingly supple and strong legged white guy - he could be dutch, could be german, no idea but it isn't in the slightest important. At first he takes them on one at a time, then when they struggle to beat him up, it is two against one. Chan, despite his age, appears as agile, bouncy and as breathtaking as ever. My only complaint is that in some scenes the really tall lanky guy is replaced with a double, and unfortunately it is too obvious that it is a double. I saw a "Making Of..." for this film and the guy acting the tall lanky guy, could not get the right timing for the attacks that he was supposed to do, and so he was replaced by the double. Alas the double was about a foot, at least, shorter. That is noticable. That aside, this is a great film, with the usual brand of amazing stunts, some car chases thrown in for good measure and bucket loads of Jackie Chan's unique brand of humour - the numb mouth bit is hysterical!
Audio & Subtitles
This version of the film comes with two audio options, English and Mandarin. This was ok I thought as it was a primarily english language film, but at first I was a little worried. The menu bar that appears when I press the audio button on my dvd remote lists the english audio track as being Chinese, and the first couple of words that we hear Chan speak after he has been rescued by the natives are in Cantonese. I was somewhat surprised. The reason for my surprise was mainly this. The things he was saying in Cantonese were dubbed into Cantonese as his mouth was actually speaking english! This was on the "english" language audio track. To make things more confusing the previous scene involving the american military people was spoken in english. After hearing him speak dubbed in cantonese to the natives, they do not understand him, so he then asks them if they speak english, in english. They did not dub this over into cantonese. Eh? I thought. 5 seconds ago he was being dubbed, now you are not! Then some more cantonese dubbing, and now you are again? He then starts shouting "Who Am I?", back into english. What the hell was going on I thought. I sat puzzled and let the film carry on, to discover that the rest of the film is in english. So why on Earth did they dub those bits into cantonese when they were originally (as far as I cold tell from the mouth movements) in english, and the rest of the film was in english? After thinking about it briefly I realised why. At least I hope this is the reason why, and I am not in fact giving Universe too much credit!
Jackie Chan is Chinese, and obviously comes from somewhere where the dialect spoken is Cantonese. When waking up after being injured, and having lost his memory, the words that he would speak would be in his first language. When speaking to himself rhetorically he would speak in his first language, and when he asks the natives if they speak english, it makes sense that he should speak in english there. While having dubbing is quite annoying, thinking about it, the chosen language for those points is far more realistic and sensible than him speaking english all the time.
As for the quality of the audio. On the whole it is excellent, except for a couple of things. Number one, and my number one complaint about most audio tracks, is that the lip synchronisation is off, at points, by a very noticable amount. I will celebrate the day when I see a perfectly lip synched Hon Kong film! Number 2, I hope this one was the film and not my TV, but from the scenes where he enters the building in Rotterdamn, until he gets onto the roof, or about that bit anyway, there is a distinct problem with the audio. The sound coming from the left and right speakers of my TV sounded like the connections supplying the audio signal were being pulled in and out very frequently. This was very very annoying. Having a large amount of the (mainly background) sounds go missing for short spells, only to come back then go again, then come back, then go again... became quite irritating. Hopefully this was just a fault with my disc, maybe a hair got onto it or something, rather than every copy being like this. Feedback on this matter would be appreciated. Because of this though, I started to pay a lot more attention to the backing music to these scenes, without really meaning to. This was not that good a thing. To me it just sounded like the same music was played over in a loop. Several times over for that matter, until the action started when it became more upbeat.
Subtitle wise, I did not have to use them, much, as the film was in primarily in english. Despite what I did see being very good spelling wise and grammatically, firstly they were positioned badly, off the bottom of the screen, so when they first appeared as I was watching the film in full widescreen mode I missed them! Secondly, the fact that there were no automatic subtitles for some bits was ridiculous. Regardless what language you were watching the film in, if it was the language you speak and understand, you would think that you would no need subtitles. Wrong. To understand anything the African natives were saying, you HAD to have the subtitles on. When Jackie is dubbed into cantonese in the english language audio track, there are no subtitles, again you have to turn them on here. That was annoying. What made the subtitles worse was the fact that they subtitled things that should not have been subtitled! The bit where Jackie's mouth has gone numb due to chewing on the herb, when Jackie speaks, or tries to speak, what comes out is unitelligible gibberish, which is why Yuki does not understand him, and is really the whole point of there initial meeting. However the first several lines that Jackie tries to speak are subtitled, perfectly clearly. Not even as "Uaaghh Wa Baa Nua meuain." Nope, what you can read is perfect english saying exactly what Jackie was trying to say. Anyway from that point on I turned them off as they were not needed.
Who Am I? is not an old film at all, and fortunately the quality of the picture shows this fact off. I don't recall seeing any flickering or graining or any sort of blemish on screen at any point during the film. That does not mean that there was nothing there, just that if there was, it was so infrequent that it went past unnoticed.
DVD & Extras
Hmmm. The menu screen is a boring static screen, not that inspired at all. The menues for the extras are in Chinese and English and include Biographies, Trailer etc but the strange thing is that despite the fact that the menu is dual langauge, once I was in any of the text based extras, they were soley in Chinese!
While I do not think that Who Am I? is up there among his best films, it is still very entertaining, combining all the things that you love about Jackie Chan films. The action, the stunts and the laughs. I personally love this film, with this version definitely being better than the region 2 release. He may be getting on in his years, but this film shows you what it is possible for someone of that age to do. If you don't already own it, I'd go out and buy THIS VERSION if I were you.