A summer cluttered with disappointing fantasy-action exercises goes out with an apt whimper in the form of the latest Jackie Chan vehicle, “The Medallion.” This H.K./U.S. co-production at times plays as if it were aimed at children, but more often simply seems to be aiming blind at whatever genre cliche the five credited writers fix upon in any given scene. Brevity is sole major virtue to what emerges as a generic hash, with no cast or crew member seen to best advantage. Topliner’s pull will mean variably solid if unspectacular openings in territories worldwide. Ancillary will follow, pronto.
Feature reps first English language effort for helmer Gordon Chan (of Andy Lau pics “Cat and Mouse” and “Armageddon”), though star’s longtime occasional collaborator Sammo Hung is credited as “action director.”
Pic lacks a guiding sensibility, with awkward mix of H.K. and Western popcorn conventions (complete with some very obvious English overdubbing in early sequences), hectic incident pileups, by-numbers dialogue, wobbly tonal shifts, and routine design contributions. Many such entertainments end up feeling “by committee.” But when creative intentions are as confusedly multinational as they appear here, one gets the sense that those “committee” members communicated via faulty translators.
Opening seg in Thailand has H.K. police detective Eddie Yang (Chan) working with Interpol agents led by bumbling Brit Arthur Watson (Lee Evans) to prevent bad guy Snakehead (Julian Sands) and his cronies from kidnapping little Jai (Alexander Bao).
Latter is Dalai Lama-like chosen one gifted with the ability to unite two halves of a golden medallion said to be the Holy Grail of Eastern mythology, which may hold the key to eternal life. Shootout in a temple ends with lad rescued — just briefly, since script has him ping-ponging between nice and evil clutches every 10 minutes or so. He’s soon snatched by Snakehead’s minions after further imbroglio in the Hong Kong harbor.
Eddie follows the trail to Dublin, where he’s reunited with reluctant sidekick Watson and also with beauteous Interpol honcho Nicole James (Claire Forlani), a temperamental yet sentimental ex-girlfriend.
Eddie is at one point killed by villain’s henchmen, but the magical medallion brings him back to life. After that, he’s an invincible superhero. This shift would mean more if Chan’s new powers were anything distinctive — or if they represented any real contrast to his prior, equally credibility-straining stunts.
Lead foes face off first in the woods (where “flying”-fu f/x bring pic closest to pure H.K. terrain), then at Snakehead’s ruined-medieval-castle lair (where it rotely echoes every other CGI-dominated Hollywood comic book fantasy of late).
Chan demonstrates his agility in minor ways, but pic doesn’t come up with anything approaching the ingenious set pieces that’ve highlighted his career. Nor does it seem sure just how funny it wants him to be. Indeed, the real comic relief job falls to Evans (“Mouse Hunt,” “Funny Bones”), a gifted physical comic in an older tradition who is here called upon to hard-sell poorly conceived material. Results (especially one awful bit revolving around “gay” double-entendres) are often cringe-inducing, though viewers under 12 may find them a scream.
Required to treat all nonsense with weepy/sneering seriousness, Forlani and Sands can claim pic as possibly their most thankless assignment so far. Bao is a notably blank juvenile thesp. Typical of sloppiness at work here, when this hitherto mute Thai “golden child” (bad film reference intended) finally opens his mouth, he sounds as if educated at Eton.
Despite globe-hopping locales, tech aspects are variable, stylistic coherence elusive. Echoing script’s spat-from-computer tenor, Adrian Lee’s synth-heavy score shifts moods so generically you’d suspect it was culled from library music. Closing credits feature de rigeur Chan-pic incorporation of “bloopers,” here staunchly unfunny.
Primary filming ended in March 2002, the long pre-release delay suggesting a troubled production history that the final product hardly disguises.