Friday, August 22, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Charming but aging Chan takes superhero parachute

Special to The Seattle Times

In "The Medallion," Jackie Chan plays Eddie Yang, a cop who, for the first half of the film, uses martial-arts finesse and the peculiar ability to turn any nearby object into a weapon to defeat bad guys on the Hong Kong and Dublin waterfronts.

During the second half of the film, the titular medallion turns Yang into a superhero who can absorb bullets, break open car doors and — presumably, and with apologies — run faster than a speeding bullet.

It's a good demarcation point for Chan.

For decades he's been known as the man who does his own stunts, who doesn't rely on wire technology or special effects to work his magic. You saw other action stars for fiction; you saw Jackie for reality.

But he's 49 now, and age and injuries are creeping up. While his moves can still turn an entire audience into Keanu Reeves ("Whoa"), he's lost a step or three. Chase scenes that used to be bang-bang are now bang (pause) bang. Stunts are less spectacular. Early in "The Medallion," the film slows to show Chan bursting through a wall of flames. All him; no stuntman. Great, but nothing compared to what he used to do.

Movie review

"The Medallion," with Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands, John Rhys-Davies. Directed by Gordon Chan, from a story by Alfred Cheung. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence and some sexual humor. In English, with a few dubbed scenes. Several theaters.

On the plus side, "The Medallion" is a Hong Kong production. After the travesty of Hollywood's "The Tuxedo" last year, it's a joy to see familiar names like Willie Chan (executive producer) and Sammo Hung (action director) at the helm. Even a few dubbed scenes are welcome.

The plot? Silly, with echoes of both "The Matrix" and the old Eddie Murphy vehicle "The Golden Child." Apparently every thousand years a child is born — The Chosen One — who can combine two halves of an ancient medallion. An immaculately dressed, blond-haired villain named Snakehead (Julian Sands — what the hell happened to you?) kidnaps the boy from a Buddhist temple in Hong Kong and brings him to his Irish castle, where he hopes to use the medallion to gain eternal life.

But Yang follows, and works with Interpol agents Arthur Watson (Lee Evans) and old flame Nicole James (Claire Forlani) to rescue the child. When Yang gives his life to save the boy, the boy returns the favor. Yang is reborn with super powers, and the special effects take over.

The film is remarkably uneven: dark and somber at the beginning, mystical and grainy at the end, with a nice travelogue/chase sequence through Dublin in the middle. Evans — best known to U.S. audiences as the handicapped architect/pizza delivery guy from "There's Something About Mary" — is like a British Robin Williams: tiresome one moment, side-splittingly funny the next.

The romance, meanwhile, is just embarrassing. Forlani's fine, but Chan isn't the leading-man type.

So what is he? Without the stunts and bang-bang fight sequences, can Jackie Chan, nearing 50, maintain his international stardom? Probably. He's funny and personable; and as long as we're not comparing him to what he used to do, he's still a great action star. But there's unintended irony in "The Medallion." As special effects reveal how super Eddie Yang is, they also reveal how ordinary Jackie Chan has become.

Erik Lundegaard:

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company


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