There are so many injustices in this world. One of the greatest injustices in Hollywood is the fact that Jackie Chan didn't become a star until Rumble in the Bronx was released stateside and now that he attracts Hollywood producers and directors, this incredible talent is slowing down in capabilities and the powers that be in Hollywood try to use special effects and trick photography to recreate the energy that existed in older Asian Chan films. The wonderful part of Jackie Chan was the near-superhuman stunts he pulled off for his audiences. He constantly put his life in danger to entertain and it showed in his films. The outtakes at the end of his films were always frightening in content. Now, his outtakes contain more line flubs than failed stunts and even though he does things many Hollywood stuntmen would shy away from, films like The Medallion and The Tuxedo entertain, but using computers to make Jackie amazing isn't the same as watching Jackie being amazing.
The Medallion features Jackie Chan, Lee Evans and Claire Forlani as three international police officers who are trying to bring down a slave trader, but stumble across something much greater. Julian Sands is Snakehead, the slave trader who has learned of a medallion that will allow him to be a highbinder, an immortal with amazing powers. Chan and Evans were former partners with Interpol, but have bad blood between them after Chan's Eddie received a promotion and Evans' Watson did not. Forlani is Nicole, a former colleague and lover of Eddie. Watson and Eddie first come across the medallion of Asian mythology when they chase Snakehead to a temple. Watson is a bumbling detective that has a much higher image of himself than his capabilities. The Hong Kong mission proves a failure, but Eddie comes face to face with Snakehead. The reason for Snakehead being at the temple is unclear and mysterious.
Much later, Eddie is sent to Dublin, Ireland to continue his pursuit of Snakehead. He is reunited with Watson and Nicole. Watson feels resentment towards Eddie for Eddie's success and Nicole's feelings for Eddie are hurtful after he failed to call her and disappeared from her life. After some investigation, the trio learns that Snakehead is not just selling slaves on the black market, but he is trying to obtain the medallion and becoming an all-powerful immortal. A few chase scenes, fight scenes and limited character building lead to a semi-climactic finish where Eddie and Snakehead find themselves both immortal and locked in a battle that will decide the fate of the world.
I found The Medallion entertaining, but found that typical Jackie Chan magic to be mostly missing. There were one or two sequences that were fun and exciting, but the big fight scenes were created by quick editing and tricky angles. Instead of seeing Jackie Chan make an exhilarating move, we were expected to believe Chan had made that move. A punch here and a kick there, but nothing memorable was to be found in the film's fight scenes. The special effects were nifty and certainly did give Jackie Chan some incredible super powers, but I am not a person who wants to see a computer enhanced Chan. I want to see Jackie Chan's wonderful mix of physical humor and jaw-dropping martial arts on the big screen. I want to see something more along the lines of Legend of Drunken Master or even the horseshoe sequence in Shanghai Noon.
The Medallion is a quick film that runs at a slim 88 minutes. The films starts off skipping so quickly between action scenes, that the storyline seems unimportant to the filmmakers and their sole intention is to be an action film. Jackie Chan is shown with an elite fighting force, but nothing is ever known about them and after their special effects driven entrance, they are quickly left behind for the film's advancement. If there was anywhere in the film where a big fight scene was needed, it was during the time when Chan and his commandos stormed the boat and if there was ever a moment when some backstory was needed, it was before they stormed the boat and the less than stellar action sequences that poorly introduced the characters occurred.
Chan himself was good in the title role. Jackie Chan is such a lovable personality, it is hard to ever imagine him coming across poorly on the big screen. He has a charisma that has been a major part in him becoming one of the biggest stars in the world. He is getting up there in years, but still has a boyish charm and sense of humor that is hard to ignore. Claire Forlani was a surprise in the film. It wasn't necessarily for her Irish accent or acting, but her screen presence. Before The Medallion, I would not have imagined her as a "hot" brunette who can kick ass, but she conveyed that role nicely. I never previously thought of her as drop-dead-gorgeous, but now I'm hoping to see more of her in the future and found her more striking than Jennifer Love Hewitt. Lee Evans was funny, but compared to Owen Wilson or even Chris Tucker, he didn't quite match up. To share time with Jackie, you must be better than average and I did not feel he was quite up to par. There never seemed to be any great chemistry between the two male leads.
Is The Medallion worth seeing? If you enjoy Jackie Chan films, then the answer is a resounding yes. If Jackie Chan films aren't your bag of tea, then the answer is a resounding no. The Medallion entertains, but it only does so on the strength of Chan's personality. Forlani's beauty helps, and some may be entertained by Evans' dumwitted character, but as far as action films go, The Medallion is lacking. Some films greatly benefit from being special effects driven, but The Medallion is not one of them. The special effects used on Chan are lackluster and typical. What is done in The Medallion has been done before and after watching the film, you are really not left with anything memorable and rarely will the film awe you. After The Tuxedo and The Medallion, I'm really looking forward to the next Asian Chan film brought to this country.
I may not have been impressed with The Medallion, but I am continually impressed with Columbia TriStar's decision to support both widescreen and full screen formats whenever possible. The Medallion is presented in both a 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation and a pan and scan version of the film. With the wider original picture, the full screen version is lacking information to the left and right of the frame. The picture quality is quite good and looked great in progressive scan. Colors were vivid and perfectly saturated. Detail was razor sharp. Edge enhancement was nearly nonexistent, as was film grain. Black levels were dead-on and exhibited excellent shadow detail. The source materials used for The Medallion's DVD transfer were pristine and not a single visual fault could be found. Image quality was further improved by the presence of Claire Forlani.
Sound quality was excellent on The Medallion as well. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix allowed for the special effects driven film to audibly excel. There are plenty of gunshots to be heard in The Medallion, which is uncommon for a Chan film. Even Jackie Chan fires a gun in this film. Most notable of the soundtrack was the powerful .1 LFE channel that thumped throughout the movie. Stereo separation for the other channels was excellent and when necessary, the rear surrounds were full of life. The soundtrack was nicely done and the chosen musical numbers were nicely delivered by the multichannel surround mix. Aside from a few hard-to-understand accents, dialogue was easily understandable and as clear as the picture quality. In addition to the English soundtrack, a French soundtrack was included and English, French and Spanish subtitles.
The Medallion is fitted with a few nice bits of value-added content. An audio commentary featuring the film's director and producer and 15 deleted scenes are the major offerings for the film. A couple theatrical trailers complete the bill. The deleted scenes are interesting and are comprised of not only deleted scenes, but alternate scenes. A different ending and completely different plot points are contained in this collection. I get the impression from these scenes that the film really wasn't working and there were definite reshoots and that the 88 minute running time is partly short because they had to cut a lot of fat and poor moments to make the film watchable. There may have been one or two scenes that would have fit nicely in the film, but almost all of them were wisely removed or reshot. The commentary is bland, but full of information. It deals mainly with the production and editing of the film and can be a challenge to sit through.
The Medallion entertained me enough that I do not feel my time watching the movie was wasted time. However, there are many other Chan films I would rather watch than revisit this particular one. If you have a desire to watch a Jackie Chan movie, I would recommend Rumble in the Bronx or Legend of Drunken Master. The Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon films are far superior to this effort as well. Perhaps it is the storylines and budgets, but these effects driven Jackie Chan movies seem to lack the energy and excitement that his typical movies possess. This film was originally titled Highbinders and after knowing that, The Medallion definitely comes across as a Highlander inspired movie and any originality I thought it originally had feels lost. I don't feel that Chan is ready for computers to keep him exciting just yet. Give us another Fearless Hyena, Cop Story or Drunken Master film. The Medallion is only half a loaf of kung fu.