The Medallion


Robin Clifford of Reeling: the Movie Review Show
Robin Clifford 
The Medallion - Lee Evans, Jackie Chan
Laura Clifford of Reeling: the Movie Review Show
Laura Clifford 

Once every thousand years a small boy will join the two halves of an ancient medallion and will gain the power to give immortality. Hong Kong cop Eddie Yang (Jackie Chan) is assigned to protect the new Chosen One and keep the boy, the medal and its immense power from the hands of the nefarious criminal mastermind Snakehead (Julian Sand) in "The Medallion."

Jackie Chan, I'm sad to say, has completed his transition from master craftsman stunt genius, where he did all of his own stunts, to Hollywood commodity. This is not a complaint against the deservedly popular comedy/action star who, after all, is 47 years old - and you can't move around the way you did at 27. But, the freshness and imagination of Jackie's magnificent stunt choreography.  For instance, when, in "Rumble in the Bronx," he battles a bevy of bad guys in an appliance warehouse, the incredible Jackie uses everything as a prop to beat up the baddies and there is nary an F/X in sight. The maestro is heavily assisted, in "The Medallion," with wirework and CGI taking the place of Chan's former physical ability.

Jackie Chan is still fit (though decades of unrelenting pounding and bone breaking have to take their toll) and is a pleasure to watch, as always. "The Medallion" is a better movie than "The Tuxedo" but not that much better. The story, by a legion of credited writers - Bey Logan, Gordon Chan, Alfred Chung, Bennett Joshua Davlin and Paul Wheeler - is basically a rip off of "The Golden Child," with Eddie Murphy: a child with mystical powers is sought after by an evil genius that wants the power to rule the world and a special man is sent to protect and save the boy. Of course, this is a Jackie Chan movie and that means there are lots of chop sockie, shootouts, chases and, still, some incredible stunt work by Chan.

Eddie Yang is a man on a mission. He is taking part in an Interpol raid in the heart of Hong Kong sacred temple but, just as the action is about to begin, the lead officer, Arthur Watson (Lee Evans), declares that Eddie is only an observer and prohibits him prom participating. They are on the heels of international criminal Snakehead and just miss capturing the evil genius. The nefarious fiend takes the Chosen One captive with the plan to have the boy join the halves and give him immortality.

The chase ends up in a shipping container freight yard and, during the shootout, the boy hides in one of the containers. When the bad guys see Eddie going into the box, they think he's alone and push it over the side of the dock. As the container plummets to the deep bottom, Eddie is able to save the child but must sacrifice his own life. The new Golden Child uses his magical powers and Eddie is reborn and immortal - though he doesn't know about his many new powers, yet. The new Eddie is on the case again when he learns that Snakehead has, once again, captured the boy. Things circle around in this manner for the rest of the film, with interludes of action and comedy dashed on in equal measure. A love interest is introduced for Eddie in the guise of gorgeous Nicole James (Claire Forlani) so there can be a happily ever after ending, plus the requisite outtakes.

The long list of writers on "The Medallion" shows how vanilla the genre has become, especially in Chan's latest films. The 'save the child' theme has been done so many times before and there is nothing fresh to the script. The final product feels episodic and disjointed and is often a series of vignettes instead of a coherent story. Lee Evans's character is confusing and confused and important things, like is his wife a secret agent? (she blows the hell out of a bunch bad guys invading her home and he looks more surprised than we do) isn't explained. There are many such dangling threads through the film.

Oh, to bring back the good old Hong Kong days. The old Jackie Chan films had newness and originality about them that made you want to see what incredible stunts he'll do next. With "The Medallion" we get generic action in an oft-told story and, instead of the maestro doing it all, wires and computers. The fans of the new Jackie are going to have a ball. I give it a C+.

British Interpol agent Arthur Watson (Lee Evans, "There's Something About Mary") is aggravated by the presence of Hong Kong police inspector Eddie Yang (Jackie Chan, "Shanghai Knights") as he and his team wait outside a Buddhist temple where they believe they've cornered notorious criminal Snakehead (Julian Sands, "Leaving Las Vegas").  Leaving Yang behind citing 'need to know' regulations, Watson's team bungles into the temple, leaving Eddie to see a shaft of light erupt from a manhole.  He follows the light and finds Snakehead and the chosen boy who has life and death power with "The Medallion."

Jackie Chan is a force of nature, a cherubic dynamo who can't but help put a smile on one's face, but the projects which have been developed for him as a lead in the U.S. just don't have the charm of his Hong Kong productions.  "The Medallion" is a "Golden Child" ripoff (not that plot has ever been that important in a Chan film) but it is marginally better than "The Tuxedo" due to less reliance on special effects, a much more charismatic leading lady and an amusing sidekick in Evans (once director Gordon Chan finds his timing).

Yang may have found Snakehead, but he's forced to lose him when Snakehead endangers the boy who must be saved.  The incompetent Watson, who has spent his time sneaking up on Buddhist statues, chews out the police inspector and then freaks out in a spasm of pratfalls the next day when he discovers Yang's been reassigned to Interpol.  Another agent, Nicole (Claire Forlani, "Meet Joe Black") has decidedly more mixed feelings, greeting Eddie with a slap and a smile (he apparently has been lax in calling in what later appears to be a close relationship, one of several screenwriting holes).

Once Nicole and Eddie get Watson's more-or-less cooperation, with the child again in the wrong hands, they follow a tip that brings them to the docks.  After lots of good old- fashioned Chan action (long time Chan collaborator Sammo Hung directed the action sequences and it is evident), Eddie ends up in the same shipping container Jai has hidden in right before it is pushed into the ocean.  The child survives, but Eddie is found dead, until, that is, Jai uses the medallion that not only restores life, but grants super powers (although pain, apparently, is still felt).  Now Chan can leap from tall buildings and fly through the air (Chan's first time doing wire work) and the threesome all travel to Ireland where they will do final battle with a regenerated Snakehead at Raven's Keep, his moss covered castle ruins on an Irish cliff.

Although Hung's action sequences are well staged, Chan has trouble integrating Englishman Evans's unique brand of humor into the proceedings.  Initially it is painfully forced, including a moldy bit with Chan where their overheard conversation misconstrues them as gay (puhleese, hasn't this been done to death?).  Things begin to click after Yang gets his superpowers, which gives the others more to play off of, but the story line is a bumpy one. One of the best action sequences involves a surprise from Watson's conservative librarian wife Charlotte (Christy Chung), who believes her husband is a librarian as well, but once the shock has been sprung it is never explained and the joke just dangles.  The medallion's mythology is as jumbled as the Caribbean's pirates' curse, but at the screenwriters do get in a good gag with a panel of 'experts' talking to Yang about it from five computer monitors.  Forlani proves capable in the action department and has smile wattage to equal Chan's.  They're likeable as a couple, but the film short changes the romance.

"The Medallion" is a mildly entertaining Chan vehicle, but his overall trend is becoming depressing.


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