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Tarnished Medallion

Jackie Chan's latest is a contender for the top of his worst films list.

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A long time ago, a man known as JC came from the East, bringing with him a message of hope and love. He performed many miraculous acts, and he banished evil wherever he went.

Sadly, the world was not ready for his message, and forces conspired against him, crucifying him by putting him in such films as The Tuxedo and The Medallion.

Yes, Jackie Chan has made yet another contender for the title of "worst Jackie Chan film ever." Of course, it's not entirely his fault: With credits that list five writers and eight producers, this is crap by committee.

It's hard to begin discussing what went wrong here, but I think the trouble began when Jackie Chan said, "Hey, let's make a movie." It's not that Jackie Chan isn't a lovable scamp who should be mass-produced like a beanie baby so that everyone can enjoy his intense cuteness; it's just that he has no idea how to pick a project.

Apparently, though, he knows that about himself, and he just stars in any movie anyone throws at him. This is his sixth film in the last three years, and assuming that nothing goes right, he'll have another one coming out in the fall. So I can only ask Mr. Chan if he wouldn't be happier taking a bit of a vacation, say, for the rest of his life, and resting on his laurels.

But no; the nearly 50-year-old JC still wants to suit up and make the chop-socky. To that end, Chan again plays a police officer on the trail of an international bad person. This bad person is played by Julian Sands, who's kind of like a young Laurence Olivier in that he's a crappy actor who'll take any role, yet people still think highly of him.

Sands plays a character named "Snakehead." Now, you name a kid Snakehead, and you've pretty much limited his career choices to either pro wrestler or international supervillain. After checking out the benefits package for each job, Snakehead made the wise choice to set up a worldwide cartel of thugs and henchmen to assist him in his evildoing.

Tops on his list of bad things to do is to kidnap a young boy who has the power to turn him into an immortal blowhard. However, before he can get to the boy, inspector Eddie Yang (Jackie Chan) bursts in and starts kicking stuff and climbing up walls and doing funny stunts with bicycles. Confused by this sudden display of martial arts comedy, Snakehead flees.

Then, he tries to kidnap the boy again, and is defeated by the zany high-speed kung fu of Eddie Yang. Then, after that, he tries to kidnap the boy again. Luckily, he is bested by the crazy super-action karate of Eddie Yang. After that, Snakehead makes a completely unexpected effort to kidnap the young boy!

Luckily, Eddie Yang is there with his personal brand of comical action-kicking and punching, and the attempt is thwarted! I won't tell you what happens next, but if you're guessing that Snakehead tries to kidnap the young boy but is forestalled in his dastardly plans by the energetic martial mania of one Inspector Eddie Yang, well, let's just say you might be a good candidate for screenwriter of the next Jackie Chan movie!

Which shouldn't be a difficult job, frankly. It seems as though the five writers for this film only came up with five pages of script, and then just Xeroxed them a bunch of times to make it look like they'd written a full-length movie.

Their biggest sin, though, is not their lack of effort, but the fact that they've given JC superpowers that can only be filmed by means of cheesy special effects. The whole point of going to a Jackie Chan movie is to see him do his acrobatic action sequences, and attaching him to a wire so he can fly really takes a lot of the fun out of it.

It may well be that, at age 49, realizing he no longer has the body of a middle-aged man, Chan is attempting, much as Barbra Streisand has done, to extend his career with the help of high-tech interventions. To this, I can only say to Mr. Chan: Look at where Babs is now, baby.

In fact, Chan says his next movie (after the two that are already completed but have not yet been released) will be a love story, with nobody punching anyone. Clearly, Chan is playing to his strengths here. This is a career choice on par with Steve Forbes' move into politics or Michael Jordan's well-thought-out attempt at becoming the worst baseball player in history.

Whatever. Maybe the inevitable failure of that film will put an end to the cornucopia of Chan movies that have been spewing onto our screens of late. With any luck, by this time next year, Chan will have left filmmaking to follow in the footsteps of such great late-night talk show hosts as Chevy Chase, Magic Johnson and Pat Sajak. We can only hope.

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