A big chunk of the enjoyment in watching Jackie Chan's films comes in the martial-arts virtuoso flailing about in ways that defy human constraints, followed by him arising victorious from nail-biting throwdowns. What happens, then, if his character endures an enchantment that makes him invincible to punches, knives, and metal clanks to the head, and not briefly by way of some quickly-chugged booze? That's what The Medallion does, a fantasy-comedy fusion from director Gordon Chan that operates like a hammy Saturday morning cartoon instead of a budgeted studio production. Overlooking spirited action to focus on asinine humor and heavy computer-generated glitz, not to mention a piss-poor patchwork of dialogue, it makes one yearn for the hilarity and energy of even ten minutes of Drunken Master, or much anything else from Chan's earlier years.
Somehow, it took the melding of five screenwriting minds -- including Chan himself -- to piece together the story, a rehash of The Golden Child with a few added mystical flourishes for good measure. Hong Kong police chief Eddie Yang (Chan) has been cooperating with Interpol to locate Snakehead (fueled by Julian Sands' predictably evil sneer), a crime lord in search of a boy, Jai (Alex Bao), that will lead him to, you guessed it, a mystical medallion that'll grant vast power to the owner. Under the helm of agent Arthur Miller (There's Something About Mary's Lee Evans, in his usual awkward shtick), they gain and lose control of the boy in a hopscotch to Ireland, where Eddie links up with old flame and British agent Nicole (Claire Forlani). But in the chaos, Eddie finds himself harnessing the power of The Medallion, which grants him the ability to be stabbed and slammed relentlessly without dying ... well, sort of.
Boiled down to the essentials, The Medallion shows the potential for a pulse: an ancient medallion grants invincibility and eternal life, Jackie Chan exacts his signature brand of martial-arts stunts, and a degree of globe-hopping transpires. John Rhys-Davies cameos as Arthur Miller's boss, a booming scenery-chewing turn, while HK character actor Anthony Wong also pops in occasionally as Snakehead's right-hand man. Several quick-moving foot chases occur through on-location shots in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Ireland, and even Claire Forlani gets thrown into the hand-to-hand combat for a brief spell. But for every potential asset in his grasp, Gordon Chan takes a few steps back with something nonsensical and goofy, including clumsily convenient plotting; Eddie's thwarted girlfriend popping up in Ireland stands out, which pivots on the nonexistent (and almost uncomfortable) chemistry between Chan and Forlani.
Backed by a cartoonish score with sad trombones, record screeches, and heavy Wilhelm screams, The Medallion intends to match comedy beat-for-beat with mystery and thrills, but every attempt at generating laughter falls excruciatingly flat. The bickering between Eddie and Arthur, intended to remold the same East-meets-West oddness from Rush Hour, creates a flimsy bond that the writing forces out, driven into the ground by the feeble chemistry Chan and Evans create. There's a particularly dreadful -- and rather lengthy -- exchange in an Interpol station that makes those around them think they're lovers (situational humor!), followed by the expected masculine "oh, no, not that" inanity, which should showcase the degree of humor at-hand here. I understand wanting to keep things light and amusing, but when a hybrid flick slouches into cloying begs for laughter like this, it really weighs the tempo down.
Even during the action sequences, though, The Medallion simply can't dodge that "just get on with it" sensation. While Jackie Chan dishes out a handful of his signature wall-climbs and tight-space maneuvers (there's a vault through some high-elevation iron doors, as well as a scale down a pole), impressive for his ripe age, the actual fisticuffs -- some wirework and hand-to-hand chops from Sammo Hung -- can't stand out from the muddled filmmaking, especially considering the lack of investment behind the fact that the invincible Eddie will squeak out alive and unharmed. What's worse, some really garish computer-generated effects steal the time away from Chan's innate physical capabilities. Or, they steal away from the opportunity to watch Chan and Evans sing "Twist and Shout" in a kitchen longer, you decide. It's hard to believe that the director who crafted the sharp and electric Fist of Legend also hammered out something this ... well, uninteresting, and infuriatingly silly.
Video and Audio:
In their licensing agreement with Columbia/Tri-Star, Image Entertainment bring The Medallion to the high-definition arena in a suitable 2.35:1 1080p AVC treatment, juggling the colorful and crisp 2004-era cinematography with a suitable grasp on the natural but stylized palette choices. Bursts of bright color show up and stay satisfyingly robust, from bright greens in the Ireland Interpol office to punchy reds near the shipyard, while the fluctuation in skin tones and textures within close-ups offer a few impressive HD glimpses. The faster-moving scenes stay well-composed and stable (if a bit digitally garbled in spots) as they rush through the on-location shoots, preserving textures and shimmers in granite and plastic wrap, while the computer-generated effects certainly look their age in their pleasing clarity. Some edge halos crop up against the higher-contrast sequences, and a few blips in the print stick out here and there, but it's mostly a fairly satisfying visual treatment for a budget title.
The downside to this Blu-ray comes in the English audio, which downshifts from the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 -- and the DTS / Dolby Digital mixing from the theater presentation -- to a 2-channel PCM track. Verbal clarity rings true and audible enough, actually staying rather adept at navigating Jackie Chan's grasp on the language, while the goofy musical cues billow and decrescendo gracefully enough. Gunshots pack a punch, though sounding a bit strained, while a few clanks of metal and some hospital apparatus collisions aren't as robust as they could be. What pours from the front channels stays balanced and suitable enough, but the lack of rear and lower-frequency activity leaves a lot to be desired, especially from a mid-2000s production. English and Spanish optional subs can accompany the audio treatment.
Aside from two Deleted Scenes (SD MPEG-2) and a zippy Theatrical Trailer (HD MPEG-2) that reveals most of the goods from the film itself, Image Entertainment have also carried over Sony's Producer and Editor Commentary with Bill Borden and Don Brochu from the previous DVD release. The most interesting details come in their discussion of what was clipped from the movie, such as the whittled-down action sequences and the condensing of John Rhys-Davies' character, most for the purposes of tightening up the story's flow. They also chat up the stunt work that Chan did -- and didn't -- do in the film, from the sharp foot chase through Ireland to his slip-streaming through the shipping yard.
Yeah, you'll get to see a few more of Jackie Chan's tricks in The Medallion, and fans of the martial-arts legend will want to check Gordon Chan's flick out for that. Everything else in the film, though, simply doesn't work; from the contrived story and flimsy romance with Claire Forlani to the infuriating comedic attempts, it's a maddening experience to endure just to syringe a few thrills from flickers of middle-of-the-road, fantasy-laden action. Image Entertainment's Blu-ray looks fine enough, but the choice to present a 2-channel PCM track instead of even the 5.1 Dolby Digital treatment from the DVD leaves a lot to be desired. Skip It.
Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site