New Releases: Vanguard (2020) - Reviewed

 


Who does not love a good Jackie Chan movie, right? The man has attained legendary status for making amazingly choreographed hits that showcase his incomparable martial arts skill while entertaining us with well-timed physical and verbal comedy in great settings. It is hard to believe that he could be involved with a film like Vanguard, but here we are.

This ninth collaboration between Jackie Chan and director/ writer Stanley Tong feels like two old boxers getting in the ring one last time because they need the money. This might not be accurate, but it certainly comes across in their latest action thriller, a globetrotting mess of bad dialogue, horrendous CGI and over the top acting. Alright, the latter is par for the course, but unlike former ventures by Chan, Vanguard does not redeem the OTT acting with anything worth celebrating.

Again, the plot is a washed out formula that follows a private security company called Vanguard, run by Tang Huating (Chan), protecting an accountant and his family when he is targeted by a lethal organization of mercenaries. Once again, the bad guys are – you guessed it – Middle Eastern bomb-blasting, decapitation enthusiasts that vow to kill the accountant and his family if he does not reveal the location of invaluable assets owned by his late former employer. Are you yawning yet?

There are some classic Jackie Chan elements in the film that might keep you watching, such as interesting, fast-paced fight sequences, chases and shoot-outs. Throughout the first half, the film delivers some social commentary on poaching in Africa, a noble effort if it was not absolutely lacking in believability.

 




As an African native, I could not stop laughing, but for all the wrong reasons. CGI lions attack only the bad guys and hyenas are used as tracking dogs, but it doesn’t stop there. James Bond level gadgets and hover-board assassins add to the messy action sequences that plainly lack the tight choreography most of Chan’s films are known for. In fact, the action and fight scenes feel gratuitous, only enjoyable if you are looking for brainless action for the sake of entertainment.

Jackie Chan does a lot of fighting in Vanguard, but it is plain to see that he is little more than the big name used to propel an otherwise lackluster action film out of the dumpster. He allows his co-stars to shine while he steps back to play a secondary role, if only to give the film validity.

Having said that, it is important to cover the better aspects of Vanguard. As expected, the stunts are nothing short of theatrical. It is not the lowest budget film you have ever seen and for the munitions junkies there are several warmongering gadgets to admire, while they whip out the obligatory sports car orgy for large scale, albeit, far-fetched car chases. For the average popcorn viewer, Vanguard will deliver enough, if not too much, jet-setting mania to cram into the 103-minute runtime.

Just don’t expect Jackie Chan’s trademark Kung Fu hustling or sharp comedic shenanigans and you will enjoy this watered down, forgettable action flick. If you do expect Rumble in the Bronx or Supercop, well, you have been warned.

--Tasha Danzig