THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Jackie Chan is usually pretty reliable. Some of his movies are better than others, but mostly you know there will be something fun when his name is on a film. Thatís what makes The Medallion so surprising; it is not only one of Chanís least entertaining movies, but it also fails to deliver the very things we go to a Jackie Chan movie expecting to see.

The picture opens in Hong Kong, where Chan plays Eddie Yang, a cop working with Interpol to track down a smuggler known as Snakehead (Julian Sands). Eddie works closely with Arthur Watson (Lee Evans), perhaps the least competent agent in the history of Interpol. He makes Johnny English look like James Bond. Snakehead is looking for one of those weird, nonsensical mystic legends that only occur in movies. Supposedly, every few generations a boy is born who can manipulate the two pieces of some magical medallion. In so doing, he can bring the dead back to life or, conversely, take away life created by the medallion. I never quite understood it this plot, so thatís all the detail I can give you.

Eddie and Watson foil Snakeheadís kidnapping attempt, but then Ė in the next scene Ė he has the boy anyway. And all of a sudden, Jackie Chan has a completely different haircut. The whole transition is so jarring that I thought perhaps a reel was missing from the print I saw. (There wasnít.) To get help, Eddie and Watson enlist the help of another Interpol agent, Nicole James (Claire Forlani). This character is that annoying stereotype: the heroís old flame who is in the movie only to provide a generic romantic subplot. During the pursuit of Snakehead, Eddie dies and is brought back to life by the kid with the medallion. In his newly reincarnated self, he has superpowers that he uses to eventually track the bad guy down and save the day. You knew that, didnít you?

Jackie Chan has always been his own special effect. His daring stunts have rocked audiences around the world. By his own admission, heís getting a little too old to be doing that stuntman routine. To compensate, Chanís recent movies have had more creative martial arts sequences. These visually imaginative scenes Ė such as the salute to Singiní in the Rain from Shanghai Knights - are fun because they go above and beyond the normal chop socky stuff. Whatís shocking, then, is how little of this there is in The Medallion. Presumably, the fight sequences are what we pay to see in Jackie Chan movies. There are one or two such scenes here, neither of them particularly memorable. Even worse is that too much of Chanís movement in the movie is clearly the product of stunt doubles, wires, and computer effects. Somehow this seems like a ripoff. Having Jackie Chan cheat on the action is like going to a concert where the singer is lip syncing.

Last yearís Jackie Chan movie The Tuxedo also utilized computers to facilitate the action, but at least it had a coherent story and some good humor. The Medallion is just a mess. The plot is convoluted, the romance is arbitrary, and nothing seems to fit together. This is especially apparent in the scenes with Lee Evans (Thereís Something About Mary). The film periodically stops cold to allow the talented comedian to do his shtick. Sure, heís a funny guy and he gets a few chuckles, but his material doesnít gel with the rest of movie the way Chris Tuckerís humor did in the Rush Hour pictures. The whole enterprise is such a mish-mash that I expected to see Edward Scissorhands listed as the editor. It feels like entire chunks of the story have been ripped away, leaving the remaining scenes stuck together improbably.

Even in his worst movies, Jackie Chan manages a likeability. He has a winning sense of self-deprecation to match his martial arts skills. I canít help but enjoy him, no matter what. As bad as this movie is, I acknowledge being amused by the force of Chanís personality. That kind of goodwill takes The Medallion only so far. The movie is painless to watch, but ďpainlessĒ is not really the word one expects to use in association with a Jackie Chan film. Heíll be back in a good movie soon, and then we can forget about this misstep once and for all. Oh wait, Iíve forgotten it already.

( out of four)

The Medallion is rated PG-13 for violence and some double entendre. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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