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THE MEDALLION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands, John Rhys-Davies
Director:  Gordon Chan
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio:  Columbia Tri Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  88 Minutes
Release Date:  December 23, 2004

“Ever hear of police brutality?!”

“Sounds like fun.”

Film ***1/2

The Medallion is either a return to glory for the great Jackie Chan or just a breath of fresh air by not being as disappointing as his last few film offerings.  As a long time fan, I’ll take either one at this point.

As Jackie has gotten older and had to deal with aches and pains from a lifetime of incomparable stuntwork, it seemed like his recent pictures were little more than shallow vehicles for a once vital star (even if, as I always say, a slowed-down Jackie is still heads and shoulders above most action stars at full speed).  He’s had to pick his projects and his action sequences carefully.  Understand that this is a man who’s been injured in every way conceivable in his career including blowing out his knees, broken ribs, ankles, and even a life-threatening skull puncture.  If he can’t quite keep up the same pace as he approaches fifty, he deserves our sober understanding.

But The Medallion proves that a Jackie Chan movie can still be made the Jackie Chan way.  Like most of his best work, this movie is a solid, well paced blend of action and comedy.  Though Jackie may not offer the one big showstopping stunt that accented the films of his prime, he’s still capable of delivering a steady stream of smaller, incredibly acrobatic stunts that keep his audience wowed.  For him, it may be child’s play, but for the action stars of Hollywood, he’s still the master and they’re still the pupils.

This feels like a throwback to his earlier movies in style and formula.  For starters, he plays a Hong Kong cop partnered with some Western police who are, of course, buffoons (something the Asian audiences no doubt enjoy!).  The focus is on his style of fighting, which is still unmatched on the world’s film stage.  He’s gotten a little away from the use-everything-as-a-prop style that had become clichéd in his Hollywood offerings…instead, he channels his energy into his choreography and physical abilities.  Old friend and top Hong Kong action director Sammo Hung coordinated the fights, and there’s a definite difference between what you see in this movie and what you see in most Western imitations.

Even cooler is the fact that Jackie finally gets a western comedy star truly worthy of his talents.  He did good work opposite the overcharged Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour movies and the underplaying Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon, but with Lee Evans (a popular British comedy actor most known in the states for his turn as the ‘crippled’ pizza delivery guy in There’s Something About Mary), he finds a co-star of the right energy level.  When these guys share the screen, there’s plenty of laughs to be had.

The plot is basic and not that important…a bad guy known as Snakehead (Sands) has come to Hong Kong in search of an ancient relic and the ‘chosen’ boy who wields it:  a medallion believed to give immortality and great powers.  Inspector Eddie Yang (Chan) ends up following his trail back to England, which leads him to two former Interpol partners:  Watson (Evans), who believes his police abilities superior to that of Yang’s, and Nicole (Forlani), with whom he shared a one-time romantic interlude.

But Eddie ends up killed in the line of duty.  No, I haven’t given away the ending…merely the real beginning!  Because the boy and his medallion end up bringing Eddie back to life.  And not only is he alive again, he’s superhuman, with strength and speed he can’t always quite control!

But his newfound abilities are to be put to the test when Snakehead too becomes a super being.  This leads to one of the film’s showstopping pieces; a high speed footrace across treetops that looks like Crouching Tiger on speed.

It’s interesting that for the first time, special effects are incorporated into a Jackie Chan movie, who has always claimed in his career that he WAS the special effect.  There’s wirework a-plenty here, but used in more exciting, fast and furious ways than ever before, even the likes of Crouching Tiger or The Matrix.  But there’s no sellout here.  Wires may make Jackie fly, but most everything else that makes his character superhuman is still just Jackie.

The action sequences are superb and adrenaline-pumping.  The comedy is frequent and hilarious.  This may be the most satisfying film Jackie Chan has made in both of those categories in ten years.  The ending was a little abrupt and anti-climactic, but it doesn’t take away from all the fun you’ll have getting to it.

It’s sad that the lack of American star power may have kept the box office numbers down on this one.  While Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon raked in the bucks and coughed up sequels, this one might not be so lucky,  It’s a shame…this is a great cast and crew that could easily deliver another quality movie.

Or maybe my wish for a sequel is only because I want to see Jackie stay in the zone he found here and not go back to making substandard Hollywood knock-offs that cash in on his talents while never fully appreciating what he has to offer.  Those who would make that kind of film should watch The Medallion and see what this great star is still capable of.

Video ****

This is a top-notch anamorphic offering from Columbia Tri Star (a pan & scan version is included, but avoid it and treat yourself to the full scope of action).  Colors are bright, plentiful and well rendered and contained, images are sharp, clear and detailed, and no artifacting was evident to mar the experience in either light or dark scenes.  Terrific job!

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 audio is solid and dependable, giving the many action sequences punch and dynamic range.  Rear stage use is effectively channeled, and the .1 channel adds kick to the big scenes.

Features **1/2

The extras include 15 deleted scenes, a few trailers, and a decent commentary by the film’s producer and editor, who discuss the locations, the effects, and working with the likes of Jackie and Lee.

Summary:

The Medallion will bring a grin to the faces of Jackie Chan’s fans, and even charm and captivate those who have yet to really discover him.  This is a fun filled slice of action and comedy with great co-stars, great direction, and a great sense of Jackie Chan styled fun.  Smilingly recommended.