Chan's Half-Baked Leftovers
Viewers who've seen more than a few of Jackie Chan's Hong Kong movies know what to expect from his next one. With their nonsensical plotting, tones that seesaw from seriousness to silliness in the blink of an eye, and highly exaggerated humor, these flicks cannot be called works of art. But a Jackie Chan movie is redeemable solely through incredible action choreography and the charisma of the star himself. Exceptional action, lots of exaggeration, and not much else -- that's a Hong Kong Jackie Chan flick, and, most of the time, that'll do.
That's what makes his American movies so intriguing -- we don't quite know what to expect. His successes here have all been buddy movies -- Chan plus Chris Tucker, or Chan plus Owen Wilson. They still retain, for the most part, the same formulas as the Hong Kong stuff, but they have strong doses of Western color, mainly due to the filming style and the comedic style of the co-stars. Although I enjoyed those movies, I, for one, would like to see him go solo in an American movie. I missed The Tuxedo (and most people tell me I'm lucky I did), so would The Medallion answer my curiosity about what an American solo-Chan movie would be like?
At this time, I'm afraid the answer is "no." Or, perhaps more accurately, "I hope not." The Medallion is a Hong Kong Jackie Chan movie -- it just happens to be in English. The style is unmistakably similar to his overseas projects, and I suppose that shouldn't surprise me, since it was helmed by Hong Kong director Gordon Chan of Fist of Legend fame. Yet, it was still jarring -- here is Chan speaking English, along with British co-stars Lee Evans and Claire Forlani, yet there was that goofy exaggeration, those loud tonal shifts, those obligatory plot scenes.
Fine, then. Bring on the action. But here's the problem -- there wasn't much of any. The only action included in The Medallion seemed either a) rather normal, b) really badly shot and edited, or c) enhanced by wire-work and cgi. The "spectacular" part of the Jackie Chan experience played hooky for this one -- instead, we get the camera whirling and cutting around so incomprehensively it looked like it was shot by a camera strapped to a dog, then edited with a weed-wacker and put back together with adhesive tape. For the action scenes I could follow, all I was hoping for was the ol' awesome Chan maneuvers, and, although there were a few climb-up-the-wall-moments, mostly there was this out-of-place high-jumping and lightweight bounding around. "No, no," I thought to myself, "wire-fu belongs in a Jet Li movie -- we go to Jackie Chan for authenticity, the belief that Chan himself is doing those incredible things onscreen. Take that away, and you take away his movies' biggest draw."
In the meantime, when the action wasn't happening, we had to endure Evans's endless mugging and stuttering to accompany jokes that were written for children. His presence is the cue for goofy slapstick music, but the minute love interest Forlani steps into the spotlight, we get cheesy piano love music. One particular stretch featured the best example of the kind of non-action offered in this movie -- Chan and Forlani visit Evans at his large home, where his wife and kid believe he's a librarian and not the Interpol agent he actually is. Cut to his driveway; cut to him greeting Chan and Forlani with his apron on; cut to them inside the house greeting his family; cut to Evans teaching Chan how to make a casserole; cue pop music; cut to them at the dinner table; cut to random scenes of what seems to be a karaoke session in the living room; cut to people laughing while Evans doesn't look too happy; end section. I think that whole thing took about five minutes, with individual edits lasting an average of about five seconds each.
I still hold out hope for Chan's great American solo film to appear one day soon. However, the prognosis doesn't look good. Jackie Chan finally may be feeling his age. His self-performed, non-enhanced action stuffed the gills of his best work; with The Medallion, we just get half-baked leftovers served with bad comedy and general dopeyness -- now available in English.
(Released by TriStar Pictures and rated "PG-13" for action violence and some sexual humor.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.