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The Medallion (2003) August 20, 2008

Posted 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.

Look, some funny cats I found on the internet - they want cheeseburgers, I think... 

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.

Some New Zealand bloke just phoned me.  He wants me to play a DWARF!  Fool! 

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.


1. Shawn "Masterofoneinchpunch" McKenna - August 20, 2008

“It helps to have low expectations these days when it comes to Jackie Chan movies…”

This attitude really helps. While this did not help me like Thunderbolt, The Tuxedo or The Myth, I was able to enjoy Rob-B-Hood, somewhat with this film, Shanghai Knights, Forbidden Kingdom (though not his film) and a few more of the past decade (I still haven’t seen Rush Hour 3, that DVD remains unwatched).

I was surprised to see Lee Evans after having just seen him in his most famous role: There’s Something About Mary. Enjoyable, but yes I agree there seems to be a dichotomy with his role. I think he would do well working with JC (as long as there is a good screenwriter). It is usually a bad sign when you read Bey Logan in the credits (Dragon Heat :D ).

2. Cal - August 21, 2008

Rush Hour 3 is not that hot, as I’m sure you’re already aware of!

I’m not sure how well-known Evans is in the States, but he had a TV show over here about 10-15 years ago where he’d do these long, very physical sketches which were very reminiscent of silent-era cinema, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jackie. When I heard he was working with Chan, I was really looking forward to it.

I suspect that Logan was involved in that scene I talk about above, where the two are quarrelling. But whatever this film’s faults are, I still prefer it to THE TUXEDO. And guess what’s coming next on Heroes of the East… :P

(Incidentally, I enjoyed some of THE MYTH, and will watch it again soon if I get the chance just to see if it holds up).

3. Shawn "Masterofoneinchpunch" McKenna - August 21, 2008

Unfortunately Lee Evans is not that well known in the states (he would pretty much only be known for his There’s Something About Mary role and possibly Medallion is they saw that, he was in Fifth Element, but I would have to rewatch that to find him :D ).

Looking forward to Heroes of the East (about time :) ). Do you have the Dragon Dynasty or R3 edition? If you have the R3, what extras are on it (or what extras are on whatever version you have). I really enjoyed that movie, but I’ll wait until your review to post something on it.

How is your silent cinema knowledge?

4. Thomas Siefert - August 21, 2008

Rush Hour 3 was a mess.
I was horrified with the subplot about the taxi driver who’s curious about how it feels to kill another person and then in the end he get to shot someone.

5. Cal - August 22, 2008

Shawn: what I meant was THE TUXEDO is coming next…followed by a whole bunch of JC’s lesser known films. I’m planning on doing more Shaw stuff AFTER all the current crop (I’m still planning on rewatching BOXER FROM SHANTUNG again and doing a proper write-up on it) so HEROES OF THE EAST shouldn’t be too long in coming. The only silent star I have any knowledge about is Keaton (well, you’ve got to, being a Chan fan, haven’t you?). I did do a couple of reviews on another site, but they seem to have got lost along the way in amongst all the reviews on the latest Hollywood blockbusters and all that…

Thomas: yes, I hated the taxi driver too. I guess it was supposed to be satire. You know, the kind that isn’t funny OR thought-provoking? :p

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