The Medallion (2003)

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Released 16-Mar-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-Producer And Editor
Deleted Scenes-15
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 84:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Gordon Chan
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jackie Chan
Lee Evans
Claire Forlani
Julian Sands
John Rhys-Davies
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
Christy Chung
Johann Myers
Alex Bao
Siu-Ming Lau
Diana C. Weng
Chow Pok Fu
Chan Tat Kwong
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Adrian Lee
Gary Lionelli
Steve Porcaro


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Romanian
Russian
Slovenian
Swedish
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, this is a Jackie Chan movie...

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Studio interference. It is the nightmare of directors and producers the world over, and it is a nightmare that came true for those involved with The Medallion, or as it was originally known, Highbinders. Filmed as a joint Hong Kong/US production, Highbinders as it was then known went into production in late December 2001 - before Jackie Chan even started work on Shanghai Knights. Ultimately, the film languished in post-production hell for most of 2002 before a name change and a hefty chopping left it as an 88-minute film entitled The Medallion, and set for a mid-2003 release. Unfortunately, the tinkering didn't help - this is the very definition of an average film, with all the negative connotations that implies.

    The Medallion opens with the villain of the piece, the bizarrely named Snakehead (Julian Sands playing Ireland's only snake) purchasing a rare tome that tells of a medallion that will grant untold supernatural powers when its two halves are combined by a "chosen" child. The problem for Snakehead (the name made more sense in the original cut) is that he has recently attracted the attention of Interpol, and before he can get the boy and the medallion to work their magic, he is interrupted by Interpol agent Arthur Watson (Lee Evans - three guesses where they got his character name from), and his Hong Kong police "partner" Eddie Yang (Jackie Chan). Snakehead hotfoots it back to Ireland and his secret castle base (yes, it's one of those movie), organising for the boy to travel via other means, thereby forcing Eddie and Arthur to follow. Once in Ireland, they are assisted by the local Interpol "South East Asian liaison" (why there would be one of those in Dublin is not a question that should be pondered), Nicole James (Claire Forlani, using her native English accent for once). Can they stop Snakehead's plans to become an immortal demigod (and presumably then go on to rule the world)? Will Jackie and Nicole make up (oh, they were dating - I forgot to mention that - which makes Eddie a lucky guy, being a good 20 years her senior and all)? Will Watson ever realise he is a complete berk? Watch The Medallion to find out.

    So, what went wrong? Well, it should be obvious from the plot synopsis that it really struggles to make any sense. It is a combination of a fantasy/action and crime/caper comedy, and they do not mix well. Then there are the characters. Jackie Chan's Eddie is easy enough to work out (although why his hairdo suddenly changes when he flies to Ireland is never explained - maybe he had a clip while waiting at the airport), and his love interest in Nicole is equally simple. The rest of the characters are more of a problem. The villain, Snakehead (nope, still don't like the name), is apparently a dab hand at the martial arts, and knows his way around various ancient tomes, as well as keeping his very own collection of glowering henchmen, but why he is going after the Medallion (other than the obvious reason of power) is never explored - another victim of the savage cutting. All the audience knows about him is that he is the bad guy who must be beaten by the good guy before the end of the film. Likewise, the character of Arthur Watson is a conundrum. Acting for the most part like Johnny English, his colleagues nonetheless take him seriously, and he is married to an extremely beautiful woman who has secrets of her own. Why does he act like an idiot? Why do people put up with him? Does he even know who his wife is?

    Aside from the plot and the characters, the other major problem for The Medallion is that it really looks cheap. The production values are very good, but the look is still very fake. On top of that, the CGI is terrible, and some of the dialogue laughable. The final straw is the poster art - you would be forgiven for thinking that this is actually a sequel to The Tuxedo such is the resemblance to the art of that film.

    So at this point, The Medallion looks like a total write-off, but that is not the case. Jackie Chan is his usual engaging self, Claire Forlani is by turns pretty and action heroine (although she starts out by simpering for her first five minutes, which is a bad look), and Lee Evans' constant mugging pays off from time to time in some truly funny scenes. The fight scenes in the first half of the movie are also quite good - until it turns into all strange mid-air fantasy battles that are more CGI than anything else. One interesting point to note is that the fight choreography for this film was done not by Jackie Chan, as is usually the case on his own films, but by Samo Hung.

    The end result is that The Medallion is a dopey, far-fetched, and intermittently enjoyable fantasy/action flick that will probably only interest die-hard Jackie Chan fans, or those keen to hear Claire Forlani speaking in her native accent. For those it is worth a rent, but it is definitely a case of "try before you buy".

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Unlike the movie itself, there will be no debate over the quality of this transfer - it is top notch, and quite beautiful to behold.

    Presented at 2.40:1, the transfer is 16x9 enhanced. The IMDb lists the theatrical aspect ratio of this film as 1.85:1, but between the framing, the fact that all DVD releases world-wide are 2.40:1, and that a number of theatrical reviews mention the extra-wide ratio, it seems that that the IMDb are mistaken. I did not see this movie during its theatrical run here, so cannot state to it to a certainty, but chances are this DVD is correct.

    Sharpness is superb. There is abundant fine detail at all times, revealing the actors and settings with excellent clarity. There is almost no grain to speak of, with only a few shots, such as at 19:44, showing any particularly obvious grain at all. Although not quite excellent, shadow detail is still very good, presenting more than enough information in the more dimly lit scenes. They do tend to drop away to murky nothingness a touch too fast, but all the important visuals are captured.

    Colours are excellent. From the sumptuous greens of the Irish countryside, to the bright lights of Hong Kong, the colour representation is spot on.

    There are no compression artefacts present in this film, nor are there any film artefacts. Aliasing, unfortunately, is not completely left out. On the upside, it is limited in the most part to a few, rather obvious, instances. The first, and by far the worst, is on the blinds in the Interpol office between 23:55 and 25:05, while other instances occur on shipping crates (from 33:40 on) and the walls of the building at 54:15.

    The subtitles on this disc are word for word accurate, are well paced, and easy to read (if not exactly in the most attractive type-face).

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change taking place at 57:56 during Chapter 19. While it does take place on a scene change, it breaks an audio cue, making it somewhat obvious.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer for The Medallion is of a quality to match the video, presenting a rich and enveloping soundscape.

    There are five audio tracks on this disc. The first four are the "original" (which itself is not entirely original - see the audio sync section below) English dialogue, and dubs in Czech, Hungarian, and Russian (the latter three are all Region 5 languages, which is interesting for the fact that while it is not the first disc I have encountered with those languages present, it is the first to actually have Region 5 coding). All four tracks are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps). The fifth track is an English commentary track, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 192 Kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, although the usual caveat for Jackie Chan applies, as his English could still be a little difficult to understand for some.

    Audio sync, for the most part, is spot on. For most of the dialogue between residents of Hong Kong however, it is quite badly out. This is not because of sync problems, but rather because the dialogue was changed in dubbing. It appears that Sony got nervous about releasing a film in which much of the first 20 minutes was subtitled, and dubbed all the Cantonese dialogue into English (apparently even in Hong Kong). The result is the rather silly situation where all Hong Kong residents apparently speak to each other in English that does not match their lip movements. Shame on you Sony.

    The musical score presented for The Medallion sinks to depths only previously plumbed by the vile Transporter soundtrack. A strange mix of ill-advised electronic and conventional sounds, it is so hideously misplaced that it turns the dramatic moments comedic, and the comedic moments farcical. The average TV soap has a better soundtrack. The man responsible for this mess is Adrian Lee, but two further credits are listed for Steve Porcaro and Gary Lionelli, which gives rise to the thought that this soundtrack is actually the result of severe studio tampering...

    Surround presence is excellent. From the opening stanzas to the last scenes, the surround activity is energetic. The action scenes contain plenty of noises going off around the soundscape, while the quieter scenes feature a good level of ambient noise.

    The subwoofer gets plenty of action from the soundtrack, giving a good back-up to the many action scenes, and even to some of the score (although that is not exactly a good thing...)

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    From one perspective, the extras presented here are a little disappointing, but on the other, they are quite good considering how this film was received at the box office.

Menu

    The menu is static, silent, themed around the movie, and 16x9 enhanced.

Audio Commentary - Bill Borden (Co-executive producer) and Don Brochu (Editor)

    Yes folks, an audio commentary from two people you have probably never heard of. Fortunately, the two are quite chatty and make for an easy to listen to commentary, imparting plenty of information. Unfortunately, they seem to think The Medallion is some kind of masterpiece, going so far as to mention that "no one would ever know" that the Cantonese dialogue had been dubbed (umm, I did, and I feel sure I'm not alone), and praise the soundtrack as "unique". Which is one way of putting it.

Deleted Scenes (29:02)

    If you were wondering where the rest of this film actually went (all the unexplained plot holes, why Snakehead is called Snakehead, and strange "editing" decisions), this collection of 15 deleted/extended scenes makes it fairly obvious. The fact that this section features many minutes of completed visual effects footage simply goes to show how much the film was tinkered with by the studio. Presented at 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Some Region 1 reviews (not all, mind) list the commentary as Director/Editor commentaries, but unless there are actually two versions of this disc getting around, that is rather unlikely. Far be it from me to suggest that some sites do not even so much as listen to the commentaries, however. Aside from that little issue, the only difference between the versions are the extra trailers on the Region 1 disc, and they are hardly reason enough to vote it into the supreme version. Grab this disc where you find it cheapest.

Summary

    The Medallion is a rather average, somewhat cheap-looking effort from Jackie Chan. It is very funny in places, and has some good action, but for the most part simply tries too hard. Really only worth a rent for die-hard Jackie Chan or Claire Forlani fans.

    The video quality is superb, displaying plenty of detail with no drawbacks.

    The audio is likewise excellent (although that does not include the musical score), with a rich, enveloping sound environment throughout.

    The extras are not exactly extensive, but for the level of this film, they are spot on.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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