The Medallion, Jackie Chan's latest action comedy, is longer on action than comedy. But with Chan's affable charm and stunning leaps, kicks and jumps, it's a good-natured and amusing spectacle.
Chan's signature stunts and martial-arts moves enliven a predictable tale that feels like a cross between the latest Tomb Raider and Johnny English. The Johnny English component comes in the form of Chan's partner, the fumbling, bumbling Watson (Lee Evans), an Interpol agent who tries desperately to provide comic relief.
He comes off as a kind of British Jerry Lewis. If he's meant to be truly silly, then one wishes the filmmakers had gone all the way and cast Rowan Atkinson in the role of the inept, but not unintelligent agent. Evans seems a serious actor who is uncomfortable with the role of the clown.
Chan stars as Eddie Yang, a hard-working Hong Kong police officer assigned to follow a murderous smuggler named Snakehead (the dashing Julian Sands, talented and too rarely seen). Snakehead is hell-bent on attaining everlasting life through the mystical powers of an ancient medallion. (Watch a clip from the film.)
It turns out that a young Buddha-like boy possesses the medallion and holds the key to its gifts of superhuman strength and immortality. Snakehead and his evil minions kidnap the boy from a temple and spirit him off to Ireland. Eddie heroically saves the lad and dies in the process. The child brings him back to life with his mysterious medallion, leading to some of the better comic moments when Eddie awakens in a morgue.
The resuscitated Eddie has supernatural powers. He uses them to dive off buildings, crawl up walls and withstand a flurry of bullets, all in an effort to rescue the boy, who has been kidnapped by the villainous Snakehead again.
Meanwhile, Watson and a fellow Interpol agent and Eddie's love interest, Nicole (Claire Forlani), join Eddie in fighting off Snakehead's henchmen. There is a bizarre effort to make the trio seem more human during an awkward cooking/dining/dancing montage to the tune of The Beatles' Twist and Shout. One wishes it had been replaced by more karate chops and fancy kicks, or even more chase scenes such as the one through the congested streets of Dublin.
Whether on an ocean freighter, in a castle ruin or in the dark recesses of a Buddhist temple, Chan's moves are always exciting. A highlight is a scene on high wires in an Irish forest, when both Eddie and Snakehead possess superhuman powers. It's not as dazzling as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but action sequences, shot from interesting camera angles, and well-choreographed stunts make The Medallion an entertaining escape.
Grade: 2 1/2 out of 4 stars
Stars: Jackie Chan, Claire Forlani, Lee Evans, Julian Sands
Director: Gordon Chan
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Rating: PG-13 for action
violence and some double-entendres
Opens Friday nationwide