Saturday 21 November 2020

Vanguard (Movie Review)

In the realm of martial arts-driven action movies, few actors are as beloved as Jackie Chan. And if there's one thing the Asian actor was known for back in his heyday, it was his outrageous stunts and the fact that he performed most of them himself. His output of late has been anything but stellar though, so for his latest film, he once again joins forces with frequent collaborator Stanley Tong, the director behind such classics like Rumble in the Bronx, as they attempt to recapture some of that old magic.

The film centers upon the titular Vanguard, a private security agency ran by Mr. Jackie Chan himself. With offices and agents in several countries around the world, his team is one of the most respected of its kind. But when a high-value client gets in trouble with a terrorist group known as Artic Wolves, it is left to the men and women of Vanguard to do everything in their power to protect him and ensure the safety of his family.

Anyone going into Vanguard expecting a globe-trotting adventure sprinkled with Jackie Chan's signature mixture of action and comedy would be pleased to know that those elements are represented in the film. Unfortunately though, their presence does little to save the film from its generic plot, or more importantly, its shoddy execution. The film simply lacked the spark it needed to keep me invested, despite having quite a few action set pieces throughout its runtime.

There is no doubt that the movie would have fared much better, had it been released 25 years ago. But action movies have quite frankly evolved since the days of the brilliant Rumble in the Bronx, and not just in the effects department. Speaking of which, the film boasts some truly questionable CGI, from lions and hyenas that look like they must've been plucked out of a bootleg version of the recent Lion King, to one of the most cartoony car chase sequences I've seen in any film till date. 

And most of that could've been overlooked, had the film managed to engage the senses in other less visceral ways. Which I guess is its greatest shortcoming, its inability to make you care about any of it. The film had none of the heart of those earlier Jackie Chan films, choosing instead to supplant that with sheer kinetic spectacle.

Vanguard is clearly a product of a bygone era of filmmaking, right down to the way it still treats Africa as a single country, rather than a continent made up of several prominent countries and cities. The film is often beautiful to look at, showcasing the beauty of its various locales, with Dubai in particular looking about as good as it would had the film been made by its Department of Tourism. But all of that beauty rings hollow in a film that is ultimately less than captivating.


  1. After over fifty years of watching action movies, I'll skip a generic one like this. Seen enough of those.

    1. Lol. Yeah. Once you've seen a few, you've seen them all.