Vanguard: Review

Vanguard movie Jackie Chan 2020

Vanguard is Jackie Chan’s latest Chinese action blockbuster, re-teaming the kung-fu star with frequent collaborator Stanley Tong. Despite the duo’s illustrious track record (the Super Cop films are among Chan’s best work), their latest actioner feels like a wayward effort. Indulging in tired tropes and bombastic tendencies, Vanguard’s chaotic energy never reaches its campy aspirations.

Vanguard follows Tang Hauting (Jackie Chan), the leader of a covert security company. When an accountant becomes the target of a deadly mercenary organization, the Vanguard team is put to the test in a globe-trotting adventure.

For a film that is jam-packed with frenetic action sequences, Vanguard is rarely able to draw the audience’s interest. Tong’s typically lively hand as a director is noticeably missing, utilizing clumsy effects-driven sequences over the well-crafted stuntwork of his heyday (there’s a CGI lion here that looks like it’s from a PS2 game).

Colored with artificial backdrops and a frantic cluster of sped-up shots, every setpiece is presented with the same blandly-flavored aesthetics. They fail to muster a modicum of personality, poorly adapting concepts from far superior actioners. Some of these frames elicit a few cheeky fun moments (a flying jetpack trooper brings some much-needed chaos), but most of them feel too cheap and plain to register an impression. Eastern actioners often offer a fresh change of pace from Hollywood’s grandiose blockbuster, but Vanguard relishes in their worst traits. The dialogue often reads with a certain rigidness, straddling archetype characters with nothing interesting to say or do on screen (Chan seems half-asleep in his lifeless role).

There’s also a bevy of contrivances that feel woefully out of date. Every female character is treated as a mere object (the one “badass” female agent is later utilized as bait to lure a male advisory), while the film’s jingoistic politics leave a sour taste in audience’s mouth. It’s one thing to implement a patriotic verve, but the blatant reinforcement of China’s oppressive police state feels rather icky to endure.

Problematic politics aside, Vanguard is as disposable as a genre picture can get. If you’re a Chan film fan, just rent one of his superior older films instead.

Vanguard is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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Matt is an American who has grown up for passion for film and its empathetic powers to tell unique stories (especially in the science fiction sphere). Some of his favorites include Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Goodfellas, Frances Ha and Moonlight.