Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lost in the Archives: The Medallion (2003)

When I cleaned up and posted the Code Redd Net archives here this past summer/fall, I did so with the assurance that I had successfully saved all our reviews when the original Geocities site went belly-up in 2009. After a little digging, though, I realized that one piece was not saved: The Medallion. God only knows what Chicken Man and I thought of it back then, and in what puerile language I wrote my take on it, so I thought this might be a good time to revisit the film.


Perhaps this one could have stayed missing. What's here is serviceable enough entertainment, I suppose, but it's utterly pedestrian stuff that wastes the astounding physical talents of Jackie Chan. For fans of action cinema, that's an unforgivable crime. The story is absolutely asinine, but that's to be expected from these kinds of movies. Frankly, I'd be surprised if it wasn't dumb to the extreme. Forgiving a facile story is practically a prerequisite for enjoying something like this. From what I gathered on my second viewing, Jackie is a Hong Kong cop working with INTERPOL to stop a random assortment of bad guys from stealing a mysterious medallion. Once Jackie gets hold of the medallion before he drowns, apparently, in a shipping container, he suddenly wakes up in the morgue with a bevvy of supernatural powers. These powers take the form, evidently, of wirework and cheesy CGI. Here's the problem: Jackie Chan is a special effect unto himself. That's his appeal. Mixing his peerless physical talents with gimmicks is like adding too much spice to your favorite dish; just add a little bit and you'll probably spoil everything. It's simply too much to see Jackie soar over obstacles in wire-based stunts that I know he has done, apparatus-free, in other films. Jackie's at his most impressive when he's presented without artifice. Watch Who Am I? and look at the camera work during the climatic rooftop fight. The filmmakers observe his moves, but they don't embellish them, either by cutting too quickly or by tying him up to wires. Many of the stunts in this film do both, and they suffer for it. The editing is similarly problematic, mainly because it's terribly confusing. I often lost a clear sense of where each character was in relation to their surroundings, and this often resulted in diminished drama, primarily because it's hard to feel suspense when one doesn't know how close the bad guys are to the vulnerable hero. Furthermore, this whole film had a somewhat childish vibe that I disliked. Everything was so slapstick and gag-heavy that, again, I felt like Jackie was being wasted on this material. Jackie has considerable talent for slapstick, true, but this sort of tomfoolery was heavily based on sound. Most of the jokes were dependent on dialogue, especially double-entendres, or comical music. That is certainly not Jackie's forte. For a prime example of his humor, take a look at this scene from Mr. Nice Guy and see how that comedic interlude is based on what he can do with his body, not his voice. Point being, if you don't have Jackie Chan, special effects might be necessary. But when you have access to someone with his physical gifts, nothing else is needed. Your special effects budget is his salary. The Medallion hinders him, ironically enough, by trying to improve him.

1 comment:

  1. I can't imagine that the archives could have offered anything more precise or concise than what I just read. I think it's obvious that The Tuxedo suffered from the exact same blunder. I also find it strange that we take a Tobey Maguire and turn him into a super hero, but then take a Jackie Chan, who is super-powered, and turn him into a Joe that happened to come across a mystic necklace or formal dinner attire that turns him back into Jackie Chan.

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