HomePop CultureJackie Chan's Vanguard a Misfired Mission

Jackie Chan’s Vanguard a Misfired Mission

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to view Jackie Chan’s latest action movie to see if it is really as bad as everyone says it is. This review will not self-destruct, but the careers of those involved with this movie might. 

If you’re looking for a movie to binge during the holidays, Chan’s latest film, Vanguard (急先锋), is not it. The movie suffers from many issues: choppy action sequences, bad dialogue and a misjudged attempt to tick off all the politically correct boxes. Hong Kong-born director Stanley Tong (who also directed Chan in the popular Rumble in the Bronx) can’t complain about the writing because he is also credited as the screenwriter. 

The pre-title scenes are so Chan-less you might wonder if Chan is only making a cameo. Instead, we have two younger stars, the 29-year-old Yang Yang (楊洋,) in the heartthrob role of Lei Zhenyu and the 37-year-old Ai Lun (艾伦) in the steady responsible fatherly role of Zhang Kaixuan.

The film kicks off with Zhang hosting a family celebration at the Golden Phoenix restaurant for Chinese New Year in London. The godfather to Zhang’s son, Lei gifts the boy a Captain China doll — a sly nod to Captain America, only Captain China is bigger than Captain America.

Nearby, an important businessman, Qin Guoli (Jackson Lou), is with his trophy second wife. Qin and his wife are attacked, their bodyguards are killed and the Qins are kidnapped. The kidnappers take them to a restaurant where a brute named Broto (Brahim Chab) threatens to kill the wife. 

It turns out that Qin once had a business partner named Massym. Qin learned Massym wanted to obtain weapons of mass destruction and tipped off the secret service in London. Massym was killed, but his eldest son, Omar (Eyad Hourani), survived and is out for revenge and the fortune that his father left behind. Broto is his henchman. 

To protect himself and his family, Qin has hired a high-tech, international protection company: Vanguard, an agency headed by Tang Huanting (Jackie Chan) and staffed by former military service men and women, including agents Lei Zhenyu and Zhang Kaixuan. Lei and Zhang are dispatched to rescue the Qins. Once they’re safe, the Vanguard team (including Jackie Chan) are sent to protect Qin’s daughter Fareeda (Ruohan Xu). Fareeda is a 20-something animal activist somewhere in Africa, who seems more concerned with taking Instagramable photos than actually rescuing animals. 

During the confrontation between Vanguard and the bad guys, Jackie Chan performs a cool car sequence, and, as you’d expect from a Jackie Chan movie, and there are some moments of martial arts humor. Miya (Mu Qimiya 母其弥雅) makes an appearance as a badass female Vanguardian and stunt driver. 

The film also features a pair of CGI hyenas, drones, a hoverboard and a chance for Captain China to come to the rescue. What there won’t be is good dialogue or a reason for all of this globe-hopping. 

Let’s be honest: no one really goes to a Jackie Chan film for the plot (or good acting). But there are few redeeming martial arts sequences to make this one worthy for watching. “Vanguard” is not a good action film.

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