Mark Reviews Movies

THE MEDALLION

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Gordon Chan

Cast: Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands, John Rhys-Davies, Alexander Bao

MPAA Rating:  (for action violence and some sexual humor)

Running Time: 1:28

Release Date: 8/22/03


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Review by Mark Dujsik

The lesson to learn from The Medallion is that a wire- and computer-assisted Jackie Chan is better than no Jackie Chan but still a bad idea nonetheless. It's also a reminder that the director's role during the fight and stunt sequences in a Chan flick is pretty perfunctory: just place the camera about thirty feet away and let Chan do his business. Gordon Chan directs The Medallion in a way that not only fails to capture Chan's physical work but also compels us to look closer at all the digital and wiring trickery and makes us doubt whether or not we're watching Chan too many times. With only glimpses of the one inalienably entertaining element of a Jackie Chan actioner, we're mainly left with the filler. As such, here's a short checklist: The plot or—better—what we understand of the plot? Ridiculous. Comic relief beyond Chan? Dependent on low comedy. Dubbing? Terrible. Jokes outside of fight scenes? Random. Special effects? Shady. The movie seems drunk on its own badness, and I suppose it ought to be. It took no less than five writers to put together the script, and they still managed to forget a few pieces.

Chan plays Eddie Yang, a Hong Kong cop who's working with Interpol to help bring down Snakehead (Julian Sands), a super-criminal of sorts. He is hunting a young boy named Jai (Alexander Bao), the Chosen One who possesses the fabled medallion. This medallion has two parts. Why? I'm not actually sure. Maybe it has something to do with whether or not the person in its possession has the powers of both invincibility and immortality, or maybe it's just to give the bad guy a little more work. Anyway, he sends his bumbling henchmen to kidnap the boy, but they're thwarted by Eddie and the bumbling Interpol agent Arthur Watson (Lee Evans). Even so, the bumbling henchmen do eventually manage to kidnap the Chosen One and bring him to Snakehead's deteriorating, cliff-side Dublin castle. It's drafty, but it's got a nice view. So Eddie and Watson head back to Ireland themselves where they meet up with another Interpol agent Nicole James (Claire Forlani), who doesn't bumble but is still fairly useless beyond the fact that she once had a relationship with Eddie, to aid in the case.

So that medallion sounds pretty nifty, right? Well I didn't mention the catch: you have to die to take full advantage of its powers. Needless to say, Eddie gets to take full advantage of its powers, leading to an array of action sequences that depend on wiring Chan up or otherwise digitally tinkering with him. The movie sets us up for this early on when Eddie and his teammates jump a long distance between crates on a ship. After landing, he looks around to see if anyone has noticed. The look represents the movie itself at that moment, and yes, we noticed. Beyond the later special effects, we can spot the way some of the stunts are possibly cheated. Many of them are shot from behind the back or at such a great distance that we can't see Chan's face. The fight scenes are filmed in medium or close-up shots and edited rapidly. We expect Chan's stunts and fights to be presented theatrically, with longer takes and wider angles, so that we can appreciate his physical skill. Here, we're not afforded that luxury. Of course, once the medallion comes into play, Chan can jump higher and walk across the seats of a row of bicycles and fall off tall buildings, crashing into the ground, and honestly, it's all quite boring.

So instead of ignoring everything on the sidelines, we're forced to take a good, harsh look at them. Take some of the early gags for example. There's a now clichéd moment in which a dialogue between Eddie and Watson is misinterpreted by the rest of the Interpol agents so that it sounds dirtier than it actually is. Lee Evans is usually funny, and although he puts a lot of effort into his exaggerated physicality here, it's used to little effect. I don't know—nor do I want to know—why there's an awkward "Twist and Shout" montage sequence of Eddie, Watson, and Nicole playing around as they have dinner at Watson's house. Speaking of Watson's home life, he tries to cover up his job at Interpol by telling his wife that he's a librarian, but the fact that his wife either know about his secret gun cache or has one of her own (it's never clear which way it goes) is never resolved. The romance between Eddie and Nicole is forced upon us with the knowledge that they were once an item. Although it is odd that for a while she seems to have gotten over his apparent death pretty quickly. The finale has yet another fight between two immortals (I believe we're at four so far this year), as Eddie battles Julian Sands' nondescript villain.

It's also amusing that John Rhys-Davies appears here and that they got him out of dwarf makeup for nothing. There are other weird goings on in The Medallion, like the way the pendant has the ability to fix clothing as well as wounds and the way a fight between two women is signaled with the sound cue of a screeching cat and the way it made me use the word "nondescript" in the same sentence as Julian Sands. Thankfully, The Medallion is short (under an hour and a half), and it goes by quickly—albeit with mild pain.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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