Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jackie Chang, Yang Yang, Ai Lun, Mu Qimiya, Xu Ruohan, Zhu Zhengting, Jackson Lou, Eyad Hourani, Zhu Zhengting, Yang Jianping, Zhou Bin, Wang Yanlong, Roy Wong, Tomer Oz, Achabbakhe Bramine, Tam Khan
Written by: Stanley Tong, Tiffany Alycia Tong
Directed by: Stanley Tong
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 108
Date: 11/20/2020

Vanguard (2020)

2 Stars (out of 4)

'Guard' Stale

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jackie Chan's globetrotting action movie Vanguard features a few brief, impressive car chases and other light moments, but it's largely weighed down by poor writing, bland villains, and a nonsensical plot.

Tang Huanting (Jackie Chan) runs a highly-trained, high-tech security company called Vanguard. The company is hired to protect businessman Qin Guoli (Jackson Lou), who has become the target of a terrorist group. Vanguard operatives Lei Zhenyu (Yang Yang) and Zhang Haixuan (Ai Lun) save Qin from an attack in London, but they soon realize that the bad guys will be after Qin's daughter, Fareeda (Xu Ruohan), an animal activist in Africa. But during the mission, she, along with Lei, are captured. And so Vanguard must attempt a risky rescue attempt before the terrorists get their hands on a powerful weapon and wreak their vengeance.

Vanguard is one of many collaborations between superstar Chan and director Stanley Tong (Supercop, Rumble in the Bronx, Kung Fu Yoga), over three decades. One can easily get the feeling that, at this point, they are just coasting. Even with his many years behind the camera Tong has never really perfected his skills as a storyteller (his one foray into Hollywood gave us Mr. Magoo), but he's still technically proficient at stunts and slapstick.

Vanguard features several car chases that are undeniably cool, especially when cars go flying off the sides of steep hills, or a fleet of cars made of gold go tearing through the city. Other action scenes are duller, consisting less of Chan's style of fluid, dazzling martial arts, and more of guns and explosions. Plus, these scenes eventually grow tiresome, given that they are in service of a plot and characters that we just don't care about.

The villains are paper-thin, scowling and sneering their terrible dialogue, and it's easy to glaze over and become confused. The visual FX are quite poor as well. Chan is easily the best thing here, and his best moment comes when Miya Muqi lands on the back of a bad guy's car and proceeds to wrest control. Chan calmly remarks, "she's on my team."

Lionsgate's 2021 Blu-ray release boasts very strong picture and sound, which might go some ways in making up for what is a pretty lackluster Jackie Chan movie. The movie is presented in both Mandarin and English 5.1 Dolby audio mixes, and there are optional English and Spanish subtitles. The only extra is an eight-minute "making-of" featurette, which features less Chan than we might hope, but does offer a few thoughts from director Tong.

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