A Buddhist monk child and a mysterious medallion cause all kinds of problems for a Hong Kong detective, especially when he has to protect them from a ruthless crime lord.
The Medallion sort of reads like a recipe of other film genres: a heavy helping of buddy cop, mixed with a dollop of the supernatural and a dash of the protect-the-mystical-child-with-special-powers scenario (i.e. The Golden Child). The plot isn't the reason you're sitting in the theater but you go along with it for appearances' sake. Eddie Yang (Jackie Chan), a skilled Hong Kong detective, is teamed up with Interpol agent Arthur Watson (Lee Evans), a snippy control freak, to catch an evil crime lord known as Snakehead (Julian Sands), who has done some nefarious deeds. Their investigation takes them to a sacred temple where Eddie ends up saving a Dalai Lama-like kid named Jai (Alex Bao) from Snakehead's clutches. The ruthless criminal wants the boy because he possesses a mystical medallion that has powers of immortality only he can control. Snakehead evenutally nabs the boy and takes him to Ireland. Det. Eddie follows the villain to Ireland, where he reunites with the insecure Watson and his former flame Nicole (Claire Forlani), also an Interpol agent. Soon though, Eddie gets a firsthand account the medallion's awesome force when after dying while rescuing Jai once again, the boy and his pendant bring Eddie back to life, transforming him into an immortal warrior with superhuman abilities. Unfortunately for him, the same thing happens to Snakehead. In typical fashion, Eddie and company must battle many of the bad guy's minions and then Eddie takes on Snakehead in a final, otherworldly confrontation. It doesn't take the mental strength of a superhero to figure how things will turn out.
No matter how derivative The Medallion is, Jackie Chan's in it, so you know it's got to work on some level. This Chinese marvel who excels in acrobatics, stunts and martial arts truly has the uncanny ability to take the most tired of plots and make them more palatable just by karate-chopping onto the screen with a giant smile on his face. Although the visibly aging Chan is more serious here than in recent efforts such as Shanghai Knights, he still can't hide the fun factor he brings to his films. Luckily, he has found a worthy comic foil in Evans (There's Something About Mary), whose bumbling antics smack of Rowan Atkinson's as Mr. Bean and who brightens up the film on more than one occasion. The only real drawback to Medallion is giving Chan a love interest. Yep, our favorite martial arts boy gets to kiss the girl but almost makes us cry; unfortunately Forlani (Meet Joe Black), who holds her own with the stunts, has zero chemistry with the actor, as hard as she tries to make us believe Nicole really loves Eddie. When a love scene comes up, you clench your teeth, hoping it'll pass soon enough and get back to the action. Thankfully, it does. Sorry, Jackie, but you should just stick to kickboxing the enemy instead of kissing the girls.
What if Chan could use his uncanny skills on a supernatural level? Just imagine the possibilities. The same thought surely must have crossed the minds of those bringing Medallion to life. The thing is, does Jackie really need all those special effects to pull off what he already does so well naturally? Not really. Hong Kong director Gordon Chan (no relation) is known for his slick filmmaking style that stays true to the art of a kung-fu movie; Medallion has this spirit running through it, and when Chan is fighting hand-to-hand, the film is exciting. Yet, once Eddie and Snakehead gain their mystical powers, it suddenly lapses into Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon mode as the two foes fly through the air, chase each other on top of trees and fight while dangling above ground. Ultimately, these effects really don't do anything to elevate the film. In fact, the camera is rather shaky, the images gritty and, at times, it's hard to distinguish who is who. Gordon Chan should have just realized he didn't need all the highfalutin' gimmicks to make an enjoyable martial arts flick with the ever-nimble Jackie doing his stuff.
Jackie Chan has just as much fun in The Medallion as he does in any of his other films--but he doesn't need the overworked special effects used in it to accentuate his extraordinary talents.