- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

Jackie Chan’s 49-year-old joints must be aching, as the Hong Kong-born B-action star shows signs of creakiness and a reliance on hidden wires in “The Medallion.” Who can blame him? The indestructible stunt-maestro is a mere mortal, after all.

Not so his character, Eddie Yang, in “The Medallion.” About midway through this blessedly brief action-comedy, Yang, a Hong Kong detective, dies and is brought back to life. So are other characters.

The supernatural revivifications are credited to the occult powers of an ancient Eastern medallion, wielded by an adorable Asian boy named Jai (Alex Bao). He sits Indian-style through much of the film, in a role that was ripped straight from “The Golden Child.”

Director Gordon Chan and his legion of screenwriters go so far as to call the tyke the “chosen one,” Eddie Murphy’s deified moniker in “Golden.”

Also, as in the Murphy vehicle, there’s an eccentric villain out to steal Jai’s mojo for his own diabolical ends. He was called Sardo Numspa in the 1986 caper, and he’s called Snakehead (Julian Sands) here.

Like Numspa, Snakehead — some kind of international smuggler dogged by Yang and a pair of Interpol detectives (Lee Evans and Claire Forlani) — has lieutenants who do much of the dirty work, led in “Medallion” by a top-hatted dandy (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang).

This is all fine and inoffensive — a recycling job bordering on plagiarism is a time-honored Hollywood practice. Trouble is, Mr. Chan is no Eddie Murphy.

But then, Eddie Murphy is no Eddie Murphy anymore, so maybe Mr. Chan deserves some slack.

“Medallion,” which starts off in Hong Kong (with dubbed English voices) and winds up in Dublin, is not without its charms. A couple of one-liners are worth at least a chuckle (“I think the embalming fluid went to your head”), and Mr. Chan’s obvious good nature is always welcome.

Problematic are Mr. Chan’s antic interaction with Mr. Evans (the architect imposter in “There’s Something About Mary”), who plays Arthur Watson, a bumblingly timid British detective, and Yang’s supposed romantic history with Miss Forlani’s Nicole James.

In the former case, they just don’t click as a comedic pair. Though the “Rush Hour” and “Shanghai” franchises aren’t exactly top-shelf comedies, at least Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson have been interesting foils for Mr. Chan; the self-deprecating Mr. Evans gives goofball a try but comes off stale and flat.

It doesn’t help that there’s a hack job of an ex-partner back story for Yang and Watson, which is supposed to account for the half-baked tension between the two characters.

In matters romantic, it’s impossible to believe for a second that Yang and the ogle-worthy James ever had a dinner date, much less a serious love affair.

Even the fight scenes — Mr. Chan’s raison d’etre — don’t snap and pop like they should. Often, Mr. Chan (Gordon, not Jackie) artificially speeds up Arthur Wong’s photography to gloss over the imperfections of the action.

If “The Medallion” can’t get the action right, what could possibly be the point of it?

Jackie Chan certainly can’t be hurting for cash these days, so it’s a little puzzling that he would mail in a movie that reeks of paycheck fodder.

Bad acting, like old habits, dies hard, and it’s a painful thing to watch.

*1/2

TITLE: “The Medallion”

RATING: PG-13 (Action violence; sexual humor)

CREDITS: Directed by Gordon Chan. Produced by Alfred Cheung. Written by Bennett Joshua Davlin, Mr. Cheung, Bey Logan and Paul Wheele. Story by Mr. Cheung. Photography by Arthur Wong.

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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