What a strange idea to remake Jackie Chan’s Who Am I. While a success, the 1998 action film – which Chan co-directed with Benny Chan – wasn’t so popular that its title would become a brand name or rank among Chan’s greatest hits, and its premise of an elite agent who loses his memory in a botched operation then tries to piece back what happened while fending off a high-reaching conspiracy has been more than played out since, most notably and successfully in the Bourne films. What’s even more puzzling is that Song Yinxi’s Who Am I 2015, which was produced by Chan himself and stars mostly friends and protégés of his, actually has very little in common with the film of which it positions itself as a redo. The main character (here, Wang Haixiang) isn’t an elite agent anymore, he’s a bike courier with a penchant for extreme sports, and he’s not encroached in a vast conspiracy but simply chased by a shady boss’ henchmen (Ken Lo, Zhang Lanxin and director Song Yinxi himself) after witnessing the murder of a businessman. They frame him for the murder and he can only count on the help of a shrill hitchhiker (Yao Xingtong) and a mysterious ex-cop (Yu Rongguang), while suffering not from amnesia as in the original film, but from prosopagnosia (aka face blindness), a rare pathology that makes it difficult to recognize faces, even one’s own.
All in all, Who Am I 2015 isn’t really much of a remake or even reboot, as it retains only the chase aspect and cognitive impairment of the first film, two elements that were hardly new to Asian cinema even at the time. In that regard, the title isn’t just misleading, it’s also plain stupid : the main character does know who he is at all times, he simply has a hard time putting a face on people. On top of that, the face blindness angle barely plays into the story and is milked only for a few weak twists, some of which border on creepy, such as when Yao Xingtong puts on earrings that belonged to Wang Haixiang’s dead girlfriend, so that he believed it’s actually her, back from the dead. That this is played for tears and not for spine-tingling psychological dread tells you everything you need to know about how misconceived this film is. Outside of that, the face blindness simply isn’t factored in, as if the writers were simply too lazy to follow through on what could’ve been an interesting plot device.
All that wouldn’t really matter (indeed, what’s in a title ?) if the film succeeded even as basic entertainment. Which it unfortunately doesn’t. The plot is a mess and worse, it’s incredibly mundane, a saggy chase through non-descript villages, centered around the unappealing duo of Wang Haixiang, who as a Jackie Chan protégé probably has talent but unfortunately has no charisma, and Yao Xingtong, who after annoying everyone in Chinese Zodiac takes on a new incredibly obnoxious character who inflicts tooth-rotting mawkishness and ear-splitting bickering at every turn. Humour is often subdued and tedious, and the fighting is incredibly sparse and utterly unremarkable when it happens, which makes us wonder whom this film was intended for, and again why it felt the need to place itself in the lineage of a Jackie Chan film which featured several impressive set pieces and fights. Zhang Lanxin, the promising screen fighter from Chinese Zodiac, shows good presence again, but her slinky charisma and superb kicks are of course woefully underutilized, while Ken Lo lets his mohawk-ponytail and his hideous jackets to all the acting. The ever-excellent Yu Rongguang pops up to provide exposition and incidentally remind us of infinitely better films with his assured presence.
Long Story Short : Not really a remake or a reboot of Jackie Chan’s Who Am I, not even really the same kind of film, Who Am I 2015 is limp, messy and cheap. *1/2