“Vanguard” is marketed as the latest Jackie Chan action movie, with the 66-year-old reuniting with “Rumble in the Bronx” and “Supercop” director Stanley Tong.
Fans of Chan might be disappointed, however, with the international superstar mostly taking a back seat to his younger co-stars in a film that is never boring – but is never really that good, either.
“Vanguard” finds Chan as the head of a covert security agency that is hired by a wealthy businessman who comes under attack by a Middle Eastern militia group – with the bad guys targeting his daughter (Ruohan Xu) while she is on a nature retreat in Africa.
Chan’s team includes a pair of agents Lei Zhenyu (Yang Yang) and Mi Ya (Miya Muqi) who are asked to do much of the action heavy lifting here.
Tong has proven himself to be a very capable action director, and he does his best to stage some high-impact moments in “Vanguard.” Yang and Mugi have some strong moments here with Chan mostly relegated to the sidelines – with a few exceptions usually played for laughs.
In those moments Chan shows he still has it and kind of leaves the audience wondering what else he could have done. But it’s pretty clear that this is more about Chan passing the torch and less about carrying the film.
It’s unfortunate that the torch couldn’t have been passed in a better film.
As it stands, “Vanguard” works best in its numerous unintentionally hilarious moments. It’s a film full of jaw-droppingly bad moments ranging from the daughter’s secret lair in a tree to a sequence involving a CGI lion that evokes memories of the 1970s cult family film “Roar.”
“Vanguard” isn’t just saddled by bad effects. It’s a film with border-line offensive stock villains, some really cheesy dialogue and some pretty blatant tie-ins to the Chinese New Year (it was originally supposed to be released in January but was pushed back due to COVID concerns).
All of this makes sure that “Vanguard” is never dull, it’s just really not that good. Chan and his fans deserved better.