2 stars (out of 4)
As villain Snakehead, actor Julian Sands punches Jackie Chan's kung-fu dance card in "The Medallion," a magic-meets-macho cop movie that's more gimmick than actual movie.
Chan plays Eddie Yang, a Hong Kong detective working with Interpol's slapstick incompetent Arthur Watson (Lee Evans of "There's Something About Mary") to stop Snakehead's international crime syndicate. Along the way, Yang stumbles upon a young boy who controls a mysterious medallion.
Like W.C. Fields before him, Chan essentially plays the same character - a slightly glossy version of himself - shoehorned into different (similar) circumstances in each new film. In "The Tuxedo," Chan was a butler bestowed with super-spy talents, thanks to technologically advanced eveningwear. In "The Medallion," enchanted jewelry fuels the narrative as evil Snakehead seeks an amulet that grants immortality and superpowers.
Claire Forlani, with no real help from the script, manages to provide the movie with a romantic spark often vacant in Chan's comedic fisticuffs. Maybe it's that disarming smile, or the way she plays her scenes a little closer to Chan to hint at past intimacy. As Yang's former girlfriend Nicole, she even holds her own in fight scenes, from a wicked right cross to a sky-high kick. Stick around for Chan's signature outtakes during the credits to watch her slap him silly - and perhaps a little too hard.
Sands snarls and laughs maniacally in all the right places, busting out the bad-guy bravura he honed in his "Warlock" B-movie series. Meanwhile, Chan dodges bullets and remains nice to women and children, even when they slap him. Evans, although funny in his previous films, is absolutely grating as a bumbling sidekick who keeps pulling guns on Buddhist statues during police raids.
Anchored by his "Rush Hour" and "Shanghai Noon/Shanghai Knights" franchises, Chan is enjoying perhaps the height of his worldwide appeal. A fixture on late-night talk shows and the darling of the action-movie press, Chan doesn't need to perform the death-defying stunts that landed him in the hospital so many times before. After all, he'll be 50 next year.
However, he's still choosing the same thin plot lines. Audiences might not be as forgiving of anorexic scripts, especially when Chan isn't showcasing eye-popping action. He's still a wiz at close-quarters fighting and bounding up walls, but fans might feel cheated by this movie's extensive use of phony-looking wire work and green screen.
Directed by Gordon Chan; written by Chan, Bey Logan, Bennett Joshua Davlin, Alfred Cheung, Paul Wheeler; photographed by Arthur Wong; production design by Joseph C. Nemec III; produced by Alfred Cheung. A TriStar Pictures release; opens Friday, Aug. 22. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: PG-13 (action violence and some sexual humor).
Eddie Yang - Jackie Chan
Nicole - Claire Forlani
Arthur Watson - Lee Evans
Snakehead - Julian Sands