Directed by: Gordon Chan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands, John Rhys-Davies
Despite all the money claimed to have been lavished on The Medallion, Jackie Chan's latest offering (which, judging by the outtakes, was shot in the winter of 2001) looks and (especially) sounds like a relic from 1972 that has somehow slipped through a fissure in time.
The music (which no one to own up to having written) smacks of library tracks -- some of which might have been lifted from a personal-hygiene instructional movie. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since it only adds to the feeling of cheerful cheese -- and that's the only way to enjoy this movie.
Granted, the film is better than The Tuxedo, but then, so are most things. Unfortunately, The Medallion repeats one of the central failings of that earlier opus -- burying its star in wire-work and CGI effects to such a degree that it hardly matters it's Jackie Chan at all. All right, so it's not unreasonable that Chan, at 48, might be getting to a point where he needs a little assistance, but it doesn't change the fact that you don't build a movie around a world-class martial-arts star and then turn him into Keanu Reeves in The Matrix.
It also seems incredible that no one -- other than the audience -- noticed that by far the most impressive action scenes are the ones where it's very obviously Jackie Chan doing his own stunts unaided by much in the way of studio trickery. (The most satisfying bit of Chaniana in the altogether superior Shanghai Knights was, after all, Chan's "Singin' in the Rain" sequence.) The little throwaway moments like Chan racing across a row of bicycle seats or clambering up a gate work splendidly, while the film's efforts at big set-pieces fall flat. The final showdown between Chan and Snakehead (Julian "Dude, Where's My Career?" Sands) is incredibly limp, and nothing that couldn't have been done by just about anyone.
Incredibly, it took five screenwriters to bring The Medallion into being -- and not one of them (including director Gordon Chan), had the presence of mind to question the logic of a key sequence in which Snakehead's henchmen blissfully knock a cargo car into the harbor, sending "The Boy" (Alex Bao) and Chan to a presumably watery grave (despite the fact that Snakehead needs "The Boy" in order to attain his goal of quasi-immortality and supernatural powers). Nor, for that matter, did anyone pause to wonder just why Chan would pause to don a motorcycle helmet after he's been brought back from the dead by "The Boy" and the medallion, and is then, for all intents and purposes, invincible.
It may -- and probably should -- be argued that you don't go to a movie like this expecting logic, but it does help if such a film can at least achieve illusion of coherence. The Medallion doesn't even rise to that level. Its plot is a kind of rip-off of The Golden Child, which in itself is cause for pause, since who, in his right mind, would plunder that Eddie Murphy misfire? (As a side note: It's amusing to see that critics who took Freaky Friday to task for its portrayal of the East as a source for mystical wonderment aren't lodging the same complaint against this movie, which is cut from the same cloth.)
The best thing about The Medallion is the comedic interplay between Chan and co-star Lee Evans as a kind of Irish Owen Wilson, though it takes the film some time to hit its stride in this department -- almost as if the decision to make Evans a comic foil came about late in the scripting and no one bothered to rewrite his earlier scenes. The worst thing about it -- apart from its wrong-headed, effects-driven approach -- is Claire Forlani's heroine. The only reason her performance isn't standout awful is that it comes in the same week as Tara Reid's turn in My Boss's Daughter.
In the end, The Medallion is a movie that only works because of the undeniable charisma of its star. I think it's impossible not to like Jackie Chan and, consequently, not to forgive much in any of his films. But it's high time that Chan's admirers demanded better vehicles for their hero.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke