The Medallion (2003) Movie Review

Running at a scant 85 minutes, Jackie Chan’s latest effort “The Medallion” probably won’t please a lot of people. Generally speaking, it’s a slightly average movie, but considering the string of average films Chan has turned out in recent years, I suppose the lackluster effort here isn’t a surprise.

Chan stars as Eddie Yang, a Hong Kong cop chasing a notorious international smuggler named Snakehead (Julian Sands), who is seeking a magical medallion that can grant its owner superhuman powers. The owner of said medallion is a young boy, one of those Asian Chosen One kids that show up in movies about magical amulets and evil people searching for immortality. Snakehead abducts the chosen one and takes him to Dublin, with Eddie in fast pursuit. In Ireland, Eddie teams up with two Interpol agents: the bumbling Watson (Lee Evans) and the hottie Nicole (Claire Forlani), with whom Eddie has past entanglements.

“The Medallion’s” first 40-minutes is filled with mundane stunts as Eddie chases down Snakehead’s men in Hong Kong. And it’s actually at the 45-minute mark that the film’s “medallion gives superhuman powers to cop” premise even bothers to show up. Here, Eddie sacrifices himself to save the boy, who in turn brings him back from the dead and grants him said superhuman powers. Of course being that “The Medallion” is so ridiculously carefree, Eddie’s return from the beyond scares Watson at first, but soon everyone is in on the secret. And oh yeah, the fact that a dead cop is not only walking around, but is actually moving at superspeed and seems to be able to fly, doesn’t really seem to bother anyone.

One can imagine that the filmmakers were trying to turn “The Medallion” into yet another buddy film, the kind that Chan has scored commercial gold with in the past. Like the “Rush Hour” and “Shanghai” movies, Chan is paired up with Odious Comic Relief Watson, who is sometimes funny and sometimes really, really annoying — just like Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson. And as another Chan trademark, the women in “The Medallion” are all high-kickers. Fitting the bill nicely is Forlani (“Meet Joe Black”), who gets to use her natural accent for the first time in a movie (she’s British, but usually plays American characters in the films that I’ve seen).

But Forlani isn’t the only one filling the Michelle Yeoh quotient here. Watson has a Chinese wife (Christy Chung, “Asian Charlie’s Angels”) who doesn’t know he’s an Interpol agent. Watson has never told her his real occupation and she thinks he’s some sort of librarian. (See “Forced hi-jinks” for an explanation why.) As it turns out, Watson’s wife is also not who she appears, and turns into a fighting machine later in the film, although how and why isn’t actually explained. Also, one of Snakehead’s henchmen is a high-kicking blonde who masquerades as a nurse to get to the chosen one.

The funniest thing about “The Medallion” is this: although the premise gives Chan’s character superhuman powers, one has to wonder why, especially since everyone in the film basically defies gravity (sans superpowers) anyway. Meaning, of course, that wireworks is so extensive as to be painfully obvious at spots.

An interesting tidbit is that the movie co-stars some well-known Hong Kong vets. Besides Chung, Anthony Wong (“Beast Cops”) has a lengthy role as one of Snakehead’s agents. Unfortunately it’s a thankless role, and the usually serious Wong is made to look very, very silly in a role that makes him essentially a butler to Sands’ villain. The director, Gordon Chan, is also a Hong Kong industry vet. Here, Chan is forced to direct comedy, which unfortunately isn’t his forte. From the man who gave us “Fist of Legend” and “2000 A.D.”, “The Medallion” represents a step backwards. Which is a shame, because the film could have launched Chan into bigger and better things. As it stands, I’m afraid “The Medallion” won’t do Chan any favors.

“The Medallion” doesn’t care about making sense, and although it’s not entirely effective, it is funny enough that I laughed more than I didn’t. In a bit of a detour from your usual Jackie Chan fare, the script makes very explicit mention of Chan’s character’s past relationship with Claire Forlani’s character. The two even lock lips at the end of the movie, something unthinkable in past Chan films. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks after all! Of course it helps that Forlani is in her ’30s, which is another departure for Chan, whose last few female co-stars have become steadily younger and younger as he’s gotten older and older.

But Chan shouldn’t fret about “The Medallion’s” lack of success. “Rush Hour 3” is on the schedule, and that series has proven to be a guaranteed moneymaker. And of course there’s also room for another “Shanghai” movie with Owen Wilson…

Gordon Chan (director) / Bennett Joshua Davlin, Alfred Cheung, Gordon Chan, Paul Wheeler, Bey Logan (screenplay)
CAST: Jackie Chan …. Eddie Yang
Lee Evans …. Arthur Watson
Claire Forlani …. Nicole James
Julian Sands …. Snakehead
Anthony Wong …. Lester

Buy The Medallion on DVD