You’d be hard-pressed to find another modern action movie as incredibly generic as Vanguard. Part Fast and Furious wannabe, part Michael Bay rip-off, the latest feature from Stanley Tong reunites the director with his frequent ’90s collaborator Jackie Chan but is bereft of pretty much every quality that made their past films so enjoyable.
The plot — if one can call it that — revolves around the titular special forces team led by Tang Huating (Chan) that’s tasked with protecting an accountant from a mercenary organization — I’m getting bored just typing this — and then has to save the entire world from these bad guys.
Now, Tong’s and Chan’s previous films haven’t exactly relied on great screenwriting to succeed. (Rumble in the Bronx has some of the most idiotic storytelling I’ve ever witnessed but still proves to be a blast.) The wonderfully choreographed action and Chan’s gift for physical comedy usually make even his most narratively deficient films work.
That’s not the case with Vanguard, wherein Tong relies so heavily on quick edits and abysmal CGI that he obscures what I have to believe was great raw stunt work. More detrimental, however, is that Chan — now 66 years old — is only given a handful of fight scenes. These sequences prove to be the best parts of the film, but they’re few and far between. In his place, young actors Yang Yang (The King’s Avatar) and Miya Muqi (Kung Fu Yoga) handle the bulk of the action, and although they try their best, they can’t capture Chan’s magic or provide the amount of on-screen chemistry needed for this film to work.
As Vanguard reaches its third act, the clunky dialogue and bafflingly generic villains prove to be increasingly unbearable. And what should’ve been a fun, well-choreographed action brawler soon devolves into a mind-numbing barrage of machine-gun and missile fire.
Starts Nov. 20 at the Carolina Cinemark