The Medallion (2003) August 20, 2008Posted by Cal in : Comedy, Action, 2000s films , trackback
Director: Gordon Chan Main Cast: Jackie Chan; Lee Evans; Claire Forlani; Julian Sands Territory: Hong Kong
The unholy trinity of star Jackie Chan, director Gordon Chan and action director Sammo Hung return from their less than stellar outing with Thunderbolt for this action comedy with a supernatural flavour.
The plot is extremely simple and highly derivative – I’ll just throw the words “chosen one”, “innocent child” and “bestows immortality”, and you can probably join the dots yourself. In this one, Jackie dies about halfway through and is resurrected as a kind of supernatural superman, battling evil in the form of Snakehead (Sands) and his lackeys (which include a dubbed Anthony Wong).
The audience can breath one huge sigh of relief on one front with this film – the acting here is actually quite passable, with only a couple of wooden moments from henchmen spoiling the show. The largely British cast do a thoroughly decent show, and the addition of John Rhys-Davies lends the production an air of class it probably doesn’t deserve. The film is mostly in English (a few lines here and there are dubbed, but reasonably unobtrusively) and this makes the film an even greater achievement.
However, there are some problems. Lee Evans is a funny comedian, and a fairly decent actor, but his character here is completely all over the place. He heads a crack team of Interpol agents trying to bring Snakehead to justice, and his character switches from hard-arsed professional who takes no crap to bumbling British idiot in a matter of seconds – and usually right back again. The character is sometimes so confusing to watch that you hope the old “identical twin” ploy will reveal that there in fact two Lee Evanses. Jackie has a sidekick in the form of Claire Forlani, who gets to show what she’s got to good effect, and thankfully doesn’t let the side down, acting-wise.
The script (which boasts no less than five writers – including Bey Logan) is also a little scatterbrained, and the humour is entirely hit-and-miss. One routine between Evans and Chan has their characters arguing in front of an office full of people. The horribly contrived innuendo-laden dialogue makes the pair appear like a gay couple having a tiff to the onlookers, and the gag is pushed to breaking point…and beyond. The best line in the film is delivered later on by Chan when looking down at his recently deceased mortal body. He is resurrected, immortal, and disbelieves it’s his body on the slab, saying to Evans: “my nose isn’t that big!”
I have a sneaking suspicion that this film was originally quite a bit longer than the 80-odd minutes we’re given here. Evans’s wife, played by Christy Chung, gets almost nothing to do until, with no explanation, she reveals a kick-ass side to her and a knowledge of Evans’s secret life as an Interpol agent. However, seeing her go into barefoot action mode is quite pleasing, so I’m not complaining too much.
The action scenes are split into two styles, with the early scenes supposed to be more realistic while the latter half is more fantastic and stylised. This doesn’t come off too well, however, as the choreography uses wires quite extensively even when Jackie is still a mere mortal. Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t find the film’s use of CGI too intrusive and I thought some of the effects were quite good. Another popular criticism of the film is Jackie’s reliance on wires, which is sadly a reality we must all face these days. The super-Jackie action scenes are typical of the kind we’re used to these days and are not particularly good or bad, but you can see why Chan fans are crying into their hands at the sight of so many wire-assisted moves.
Although the story isn’t up to scratch (these chosen ones are everywhere these days, aren’t they?), and Sands’ well spoken but predictable villain won’t stay long in the memory, I found The Medallion quite enjoyable this time around. It helps to have low expectations these days when it comes to Jackie Chan movies, and if you go in with the right attitude, it’s entirely possibly you’ll enjoy the experience. The end credit out-takes, which come all too quickly, are indicative of Chan’s move away from “real” action as most of them are dialogue fluffs. The best are those between Forlani and Chan, when she gives him a (genuine) slap across the face and then promptly loses her nerve at having hit the star. Chan, ever the good-natured gent, laughs as he chides: “I got hit for nothing!”
The pairing of Chan and Evans is an inspired one, even if it doesn’t turn out the way I imagine it was intended. I still think they could pull off a great double act, but I doubt we’ll see them together on-screen again. Which is a genuine shame.