Wednesday, September 3, 2003

The Medallion

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Jackie Chan wanders through The Medallion with the surprised panache he has been displaying for decades in the American dubs of his Hong Kong work, which are about as far removed from his lesser Hollywood pictures as Hong Kong is from Cali. But that’s one of the few good things about this movie.

The story is thin; the villain is known only as Snakehead. Claire Forlani emerges from the mysterious Hollywood basement in which she’s been bound and gagged since Meet Joe Black. Spry, innocent Jackie just takes it all in and works his magic. There are plenty of films where his work rises above whatever pathetic story he’s been surrounded with, and he pulls off several very cool action scenes in this one before he is gifted with magical powers (and, therefore, saddled with bad computer graphics). From that point on, whatever purpose he served is buried under an avalanche of cheap effects and yawning plot.

Snakehead (Julian Sands) and his goons snatch a “chosen” child named Jai (Alexander Bao) who possesses a magical Buddhist medallion that can only be used when he or some other special kid shows up every 1,000 years. But before they can get the boy to Snakehead’s Dublin lair, Eddie Yang (Chan) rescues him. Well, sort of. Eddie and Jai become trapped in a shipping container that Snakehead’s men push into the ocean, leaving the two to drown. Eddie sticks Jai in an air pocket and sacrifices himself for the golden child. Once the container is lifted to land, though, Jai uses the medallion on Eddie, granting him immortality and Superman-like powers. (It’s at this point that the fight sequences cease being impressive and turn dull; Chan should never be touched by computers when he still has such talent to do his own physical stunts.)

Eddie travels to Dublin and teams up with Interpol, which turns out to be the same bumbling crew that bungled the Hong Kong Jai situation and is led by Watson (Lee Evans), who is threatened by Eddie’s obvious superiority in all things crime-stopping. Sitting in such a tepid movie leaves one a lot of time to ponder the minutiae of a bad flick. For instance, athough the majority of the movie takes place in Ireland, not a single character has an Irish accent. Nor is there any clear explanation of why Snakehead is called Snakehead or why he wants to be immortal — he doesn’t profess any desire to take over the world or even hook up with a bimbo or three, as most evil villains do. For his part, Eddie gets to work the mojo on Nicole (Forlani), one of the strangest pairings since Jacko and Lisa Marie. (The smart, near-super hero and rather dippy Forlani?)

The Medallion was once titled Highbinders, a name that can be seen on the slate during the copious outtakes that run adjacent to the closing credits. Kung fu flicks have been known to straddle the gap between the esoteric and the lowest common denominator. Highbinders, which refers to a killer working in an American city’s Chinatown (according to the dictionary, that is; I had to look it up, I admit), is a far more intriguing title and might have lent a little more to the prospects of The Medallion than its final ho-hum moniker. But then again, it is an almost entirely ho-hum film.

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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