Who Am I? [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (14th September 2019).
The Film

"Who Am I?" "我是誰?" (1998)

A meteorite that can harness large quantities of power has been discovered in South Africa and is being tested by scientists. They are ambushed by a multi-national special forces team looking to take control of the dangerous power, but the higher ups plan to cover up the incident by also eliminating the team. In a planned helicopter crash, only one survives - the Hong Kong special forces operative (played by Jackie Chan). He is rescued and brought to health by a remote African tribe, but the problem is that he is stricken with amnesia. He has no recollection of his previous mission or his name, but his knowledge of martial arts, survival skills, and other motor skills. Along the way, he encounters Yuki (played by Mirai Yamamoto) a Japanese driver who wants to help him after he rescues her and her brother, as well as Christine (played by Michelle Ferre), a journalist who is looking to score an interview and a news story with him. But with the news that a mysterious man without a past and his pictures appear everywhere, the men that ordered the ambush mission want him dead to clean the slate, and he is not going down without a fight.

"Who Am I?" was the final film that Jackie Chan made for Golden Harvest Films, his longtime home in Hong Kong and it was at the time his biggest international co-production and his biggest peak year internationally. released in the same year as "Rush Hour" and "Mulan" (in which he played a part in the Chinese dubbed versions for Cantonese and Mandarin) as well as home video releases of various films for the English markets after his breakthrough film "Rumble in the Bronx" resulted in Jackie-Fever in the mainstream. "Who Am I?" featured an international cast and was filmed in South Africa and the Netherlands, featuring many of Chan's trademarks with intensely fun stunt scenes with his agile moves and comical timings, crazy driving scenes, as well as having a plot that is not too fair on making logical sense. As with many of Chan's films as well as international cinema of the period, the original local versions of the films were slightly different from the internationally released versions, with most of them being cut a fair amount and being dubbed over. "Who Am I? was mostly in English with a few portions in other languages, For the international version, a good eleven minutes were removed from the story and some of the flashback scenes were rearranged. And in an unusual case, the original music from the Hong Kong version was not rescored and kept for the international release. While certain things were compromised, what remains is a fair Chan production that is far from his best but also far from his worst.

Directed by Benny Chan with Jackie Chan directing the action sequences, the film is still a magnificent showcase for Jackie Chan action and humor, such as the Rotterdam scene with the clogs, the Mistubishi Lancer car chase sequence, and the rooftop kung fu battle. At the same time there are a lot of humorous scenes, though some sadly fall flat with the comedic timing and execution. Chan has quite a few scenes with Yuki and Christine and there are some that are supposed to be cute and funny, but end up being awkward and flat. Considering Michelle Ferre was not an actress but an actual journalist for CNN Japan and a television and radio personality, the French-Japanese star does a fine yet slightly unconvincing job in her role helping Chan's character in his role. Mirai Yamamoto on the other hand was an established television and film actress in Japan with good English ability due to her education in an American school, but her role as the sidekick driver also falls a bit flat compared to Jackie Chan's and is underused for the most part. As the two females are not love interests nor are they particularly strong characters to the plot, it's disappointing that the female leads are not given more to do. As for the villains, Ron Smerczak as Morgan and Ed Nelson as General Sherman and their endless legion of goons are cartoonishly villainous and their characterizations do work well with the tone of the production.

Speaking of the cartoonish tone, the CG effects featured in the production are some of the most cartoonishly weak moments, with some of the helicopter shots and the explosions looking incredibly bad even at late 90s standards. Some of the dubbing of the characters such as the briefing by the CIA in the early section of the film was also pretty bad. Even though all the characters were speaking English, the ADR itself was fairly unconvincing and flat leveled to make it seem worse than the average. Even with its flaws and non-sensical nature, "Who Am I?" never bores audiences and keeps the entertainment level high throughout. Jackie Chan is always a magical presence and he certainly does not disappoint, and as a fun fact, the name of the character he plays with memory loss does have a name as it is said once during the early briefing with his name on screen, and yes, it's "Jackie Chan".

The film premiered on January 17th 1998 in Hong Kong, followed by various countries throughout 1998 and 1999. Interestingly the film was not released in America theatrically but went straight to video and TV right before the release of Chan's biggest hit to date, "Rush Hour". Over the years there have been multiple DVD releases of the original Hong Kong version and the international version, with all being slightly flawed in presentations. Some had only the international version. Some were non anamorphic. Some were dubbed. Fans were hoping a definitive release with both cuts with a good selection of extras would be released, and with the Blu-ray announcement from Umbrella Entertainment, hopes were high but there is a lot of negatives to be said about this disc unfortunately.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents two versions of the film on the disc, but note they are both the shorter international version of the film. One version is from an HD master and one is from an SD master. The HD master is framed at a cropped 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The opening and closing credits are framed at the 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio but the rest of the film have had their left and right portions slightly cropped on either side to fit the HD standard size. Framing can seem a little tight on certain scenes and it is a disappointment that an HD broadcast version was utilized. In addition the transfer is a little dated, with some damage present and the colors being slightly soft and not as bold as they could be. The credit text is in a slightly different font than on the original versions. Detail is fairly good otherwise and there are no serious damage to speak of in the transfer. The SD master on the other hand is framed at a slightly cropped 2.13:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, upscaled from standard definition NTSC. This is closer to the theatrical aspect ratio than the HD transfer, but still has a bit chopped from the edges. With a more dated master and on a lower definition side, digital artifacting, moiring, and lack of detail are shown, with less than vibrant colors.

The HD version is the better looking picture-wise but is cropped. The SD version is the worse looking picture-wise but has more picture in the frame. Neither are particularly ideal transfers and until someone can give the film a proper restoration for the longer version of the film, it's unfortunate that these compromised transfers are the best out there at the moment.

Both HD and SD international versions have the same 107:59 runtimes.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
English Dolby Digital 5.0

Another complication is with the audio tracks. The HD version offers lossless audio but in the form of a 2.0 stereo track. The SD version offers a lossy audio track but in 5.0 surround. To state, neither are particularly superb. The 2.0 track has more depth and clearer separation, with dialogue mostly centered and the left and right being used for the great music track and effects throughout. They are well balanced, but considering the DVD editions had 5.1 surround tracks, it is a disappointment that a squeezed down track was only included. On the other hand the 5.0 track on the standard definition presentation is slightly better, but not by a long shot. The presentation is similar with the dialogue being centered while the left and right are used for the music and effects. There is fair separation but the surrounds are more on the quieter side, not being of much use. The rear cover states a 5.1 track, but this is in fact a 5.0 track with no channel for the subwoofer.

During the African tribe sequences, there are burned-in English subtitles on the HD version of the film, but there are none for the SD version of the film. There are also no optional HoH subtitles for the English dialogue.

Extras

Trailer
The original US video trailer is presented here, in an even more cropped ratio, upscaled from an SD source.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


Unfortunately there are no other extras. On the German DVD there was a 30 minute making of featurette but that has not been ported to any other disc to date. It would have been interesting to hear some retrospective interviews with Chan, Yamamoto, and especially Ferre who has basically disappeared from the entertainment and media world for quite some time.

Packaging

The coverart is reversible with the other side having identical art except for the Australian rating logo being removed. The rear cover states region B only but this is in fact region all. Also it mentions the SD version having a 5.1 track but it is 5.0.

Overall

"Who Am I?" is a flawed film with its logic in the plot and some questionable performances, but is absolutely a fun ride with Chan and company on an international manhunt. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray is a questionable one. A cropped HD transfer with stereo audio, or a widescreen SD transfer with 5.0 audio, neither are desirable but at the moment this is the only Blu-ray release of the film.

The Film: B- Video: C- Audio: B- Extras: D- Overall: C

 


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