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'The Medallion'

Movie Review: 'Medallion's' powers not the charm for Jackie Chan

Friday, August 22, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

The title amulet of Jackie Chan's movie "The Medallion" can resurrect people after they die and confer immortality upon them. Film also provides a kind of immortality, preserving one's image for posterity. In Hollywood these days, that's not enough.

 
 

'THE MEDALLION'


Rating: PG-13 for action violence and some sexual humor.
Players: Jackie Chan, Claire Forlani, Lee Evans, Julian Sands.
Director: Gordon Chan.

   
 
 

Now you have to preserve the star's aura of youthfulness. If you can't stop the ravages of time, you can at least cover them over. So the beautiful people worship at the shrine of Botox and offer themselves at the altar of plastic surgery.

Chan faces a variation on this dilemma. The martial-arts star, who has been doing his own stunts for three decades, turns 50 next year. Can he still walk the walk, kick the kick, chop the socky?

"The Medallion," coming on the heels of last year's threadbare "The Tuxedo," makes you wonder. Both films use computer effects to "enhance" -- or substitute for -- Chan's legitimate martial-arts skills. "The Medallion" features less of the rapid-fire hand-to-hand, prop-to-prop combat that has become a trademark of his movies.

But the star's abilities become meaningless once the medallion effectively turns his character, Eddie Yang, into a superhero. That power is precisely what attracts the villain, Snakehead (Julian Sands), one of those insufferably arrogant megalomaniacs who thinks he deserves to rule the world. When Snakehead undergoes the same transformation, the movie runs into that age-old dilemma of how one resolves a duel to the death between two supposedly immortal beings.

The movie's solution seems to come out of left field, but that shouldn't surprise anyone. Some of the early scenes make you think you've missed something, as in the prior relationship between Eddie and his British Interpol liaison, Nicole James (Claire Forlani).

His Interpol rival, Arthur Watson (Lee Evans), sports an air of superiority that fails to mask his basic incompetence. He begins talking about falling out with Eddie in Hong Kong when the film's prologue makes it clear he barely tolerated him there. Snakehead's henchmen also do stupid things, like repeatedly endangering the life of the boy who owns the medallion, whose survival is key to the villain's plot.

OK, so the writing (credited to five scribes, never a good sign) leaves a lot to be desired. That's too bad, because this is one of the few films in which Chan doesn't play an accidental, unlikely hero. His competence is clear. Instead, Watson plays the fool, and Evans -- whose skill as a physical comic was showcased in the weirdly brilliant 1995 film "Funny Bones" -- gets to display a smidgen of his talent.

But we'd like to see more of Chan in action. Instead, we end up with computer effects as overblown as they are badly rendered. The characters cease to be people even in a fictional sense. They become mere digital creations, literal shadows of themselves, immortal yet ephemeral.

That may be Jackie Chan's image on the screen, but if he keeps relying on computer graphics it may turn out to be the picture of Dorian Gray.


Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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