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Not Jackie Chan's worst - but still a long way from being good
on 8 September 2009
The Medallion aka Highbinders has the distinction of not being quite as bad as many of Jackie Chan's recent disastrous films, but it's not even close to being good either. A big-budget high concept misfire, there's not much visible bang for its buck or even much concept after the studio rejected director Gordon Chan's rough cut and replaced him with Doug Aarniokoski for extensive reshoots: even the deleted scenes on the DVD offer different backstories for the same character in the hope that if they shot long enough they'd find something that would work. The finished film itself suffers from similar schizophrenic moments, with the relationship between its unlikely cop pairing of Jackie Chan and, er, Lee Evans suddenly having a completely new history as soon as the location moves from Hong Kong to tax break filmmaking friendly Dublin.
The premise isn't terribly imaginative to begin with: Chan's Hong Kong cop and Evans' Interpol agent are trying to catch vaguely defined villain Julian Sands and rescue a Golden Child he's kidnapped to harness the power of a medallion that can bestow super powers and immortality. Eventually Chan gets killed only to come back with vaguely defined superpowers - largely relating to bad wire work and poor special effects - and yada yada yada, you've heard it all before. With the plot reduced to its barest elements and the relationship between the two stars a non-starter, all that's left to hold the fort are Sammo Hung's action scenes, but even these are so lazily staged with such a plethora of unconvincing wire work it's no great surprise to find most of them relegated to the deleted scenes bin.
Unfortunately the end result is the kind of film that'll make you look back on even Eddie Murphy's career-stalling The Golden Child as surely not being as weak as this. It's full of gaping plotholes (just why does Evan's screen wife Christy Chung have a hidden armoury in the broom cupboard? Why does Chan's resurrection barely cause a raised eyebrow?), Chan seems to have given up on the film fairly early on and is just going through the motions, a dubbed Anthony Wong is wasted in a throwaway supporting role and matters aren't helped any by Adrian Lee's disgracefully bad nudge-nudge wink-wink score Mickey Mousing every failed joke. But the film's real coup de grace is the catastrophic miscasting of Lee Evans, who veers from the odd vaguely competent moment to the more frequently pitifully abysmal (and that's with his worst scene disguised as a Clouseau-esque Russian captain taken out of the film). There's one okay chase scene in Dublin, though nothing to compare to Chan's earlier triumphs, and a couple of the jokes don't fall completely flat, but the overall impression is of a film that feels like an utterly anonymous failed TV pilot. For a kid's show. And yet it's still less painful to watch than The Tuxedo or Around the World in 80 Days. But don't mistake that for a recommendation...
Sony's DVD has a decent 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, audio commentary by one of the producers and editor and 14 deleted scenes and alternate ending, though apparently there are a lot more where they came from that don't make it to the disc.