Vanguard Movie Review
There was a time when I watched Jackie Chan movies religiously. I got on the bandwagon late—I was first introduced to Chan through the incredibly poorly dubbed but awesome Rumble in the Bronx, and subsequently absorbed many of his older Chinese classics while staying on top of his new releases.
That was a long time ago, though.
I’ve caught an occasional movie of his over the last decade, but as the actor has aged, his stunt work has dwindled, and my taste in action movies has changed significantly, I largely haven’t paid attention to his late-stage career.
Enter Vanguard. In normal years, I may have dismissed this new action movie—which boasts a truly shoddy trailer—out of the gate. But this isn’t a normal year, now is it? With a small gap in my screening calendar, I opted to give it a whirl—and lo and behold, while it’s not always the most sophisticated of action movies, it’s an action movie with several surprisingly well-staged and executed action sequences.
Though he gets top billing, Chan, in effect, is a supporting character, playing the administrative leader of an elite Chinese force named Vanguard, which has been assigned to protect an accountant from a group of mercenaries. The accountant’s daughter, who somehow manages to maintain perfect hair despite living among lions somewhere in the wilds of Africa, also gets involved, and what ensues is a two-hour chase around the globe, with lots of gunfights, fistfights, and other action along the way.
From Stanley Tong, director of many of Chan’s most popular 90s films (at least from an American import perspective)—Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop, Supercop 2, and Strike Force—Vanguard is an effectively entertaining action movie. It may take a “quantity over quality” approach, but that’s not entirely fair; most of the action Tong delivers is big, fast, and relentless, more than enough to satiate action fans.
The less that can be said about the rest of the movie, the better. The film’s attempts at humor and character development are incredibly cheesy, if not downright silly, and are clearly an afterthought. The acting isn’t exactly top tier, and the globetrotting plot isn’t as sophisticated as it probably seemed on paper. In other words, the film feels hastily assembled to piece together the action scenes.
Vanguard isn’t must-see cinema, but for fans of Chinese action films and/or Jackie Chan, there is enough here to check out.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.