Eric D. Snider

The Medallion

The fun of a Jackie Chan film is seeing him do things that look impossible, but knowing he's really doing them. Once he starts performing feats that are actually ARE impossible, aided by wires and digital effects, the fun evaporates. Ironically, a superhero Jackie is less super than regular Jackie.

That's the mistake "The Tuxedo" made last year, putting him in a magic suit that gave him supernatural powers and masking his real abilities with fake, movie-made ones. And it's a mistake repeated in "The Medallion," in which he gains strength from, you guessed it, a medallion. The title trinket is an ancient object -- the "Holy Grail of Eastern mythology," someone says -- that, when its two halves are joined by the Chosen One, can grant immortality and super strength.

Chan plays Eddie Yang, a Hong Kong cop who works with Interpol to track down a bad guy named Snakehead (Julian Sands). Snakehead has kidnapped the Chosen One, Jai (Alexander Bao), and wants to use the medallion for his own purposes. Snakehead also has a castle fortress on an island, which I thought only PARODIES of bad guys had nowadays, but perhaps they are coming back into vogue for serious evil villains, too.

Eddie winds up being immortalized by the medallion, as does Snakehead, which leads to the film's one cool supernatural fight sequence, set in a forest and packed with explosive energy. Otherwise, the fighting is fairly standard, though Chan does get a few scenes to do his trademark fancy footwork, impressive as always.

Claire Forlani is along for the ride as a beautiful Interpol agent whose obligation is to fall in love with Eddie. They are supervised by Watson, a bumbling agent played without a hint of talent by Lee Evans. It is a case where the director has said, "Lee, do whatever you want! Just be silly and crazy!" And Lee has tried, yet has succeeded only in being an irritant.

The screenplay, credited to five people, is a mess. In one scene, a character is revealed to have been a secret agent all along, yet that fact is never again referred to or resolved. Elsewhere, Eddie and Watson have a quarrel about their cop partnership, using phraseology that makes it sound like they're discussing a romantic relationship -- a double-entendre bit that was old when "Three's Company" used it in every episode 20 years ago, and which was still old when "Bad Boys II" did it a month ago.

The director is Gordon Chan (no relation to Jackie), a Hong Kong action director making his English-language debut. (Some scenes were obviously shot in Chinese and dubbed into English, though.) He needs an American hit; this won't be it. He overplays every joke, and most of the jokes are low and sophomoric to begin with.

Jackie Chan, meanwhile, has yet to prove his worth when he's not co-starring with someone like Chris Tucker or Owen Wilson, or re-releasing a 10-year-old film with new English dialogue. "The Tuxedo" was his first stab at it, and that failed. "The Medallion" is slightly better, but it's still a hackneyed, mediocre offering with little to remind fans of why they like Jackie.

Grade: C-

Rated PG-13, a lot of bloodless violence, some crude humor

1 hr., 28 min.

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