If movies were recipes, this is how to make the latest Chinese blockbuster Vanguard. Take one part G.I. Joe, pour in the most high-octane parts of a Fast And Furious movie, then throw it into a wok and heat it all the way up to "Michael Bay" levels.
If your concoction explodes, you're doing it right. And you won't need ingredients like "plot" or "character development". Who needs those, right? All they do is bog your movie down!
Vanguard, directed by Stanley Tong and starring Jackie Chan, is a fun, action-packed romp, packed to the brim with high kicks and car chases.
It is cheesy and predictable. Its characters are as deep as a kiddie swimming pool. Its tone can be serious one minute and ridiculous in the next. And yet, all of this gives the film a certain charm. By no means is it perfect, but it is definitely never boring.
The film is the tale of Vanguard, a London-based private security agency that protects clients around the world.
During the Chinese New Year celebrations, one of their clients, tycoon Qin Guoli (Jackson Lou) is attacked by members of an aggressive foreign terrorist group. It is up to Vanguard, led by its CEO Tang Huanting (Chan), to save the day.
Their mission also involves having to protect Fareeda (Xu Ruohan), Qin's environmentalist daughter, who is drawn to charismatic Vanguard agent Lei Zhenyu (Yang Yang).
Vanguard soon discovers that Qin is caught up in an international plot involving vast amounts of money and dangerous superweapons. They do their best to make things right, in the only way they know how – martial arts fighting and explosions!
The film has a very prominent Chinese New Year theme running throughout. It was supposed to be released at that period this year, but the pandemic changed that. It's a bit of a pity, but it's lucky we get to see it at all.
Vanguard has some very nice cinematography. Its characters travel all over the world during their adventure, and the result is some very nice location shots.
There are fights in London! There are fights in the Middle East! In Africa! One would almost expect the climax to be a fight with penguins in Antarctica. Remove the action scenes, and you would probably get a wonderful travel documentary.
But why would you want to remove the action scenes? They are definitely the highlight of this film.
Tong is a very well-known fight choreographer, and Vanguard shines the most when its characters are beating the crap out of each other. Action scenes are fast-paced, thrilling and always inventive, particularly when you have the legendary Chan in the mix.
And how is Chan? He does alright. The star is definitely not as wiry or energetic as he used to be, but his fighting is still good and always a joy to watch. He also gets some of the funniest scenes.
Fight scenes aside, however, there is nothing to shout about.
The acting here is fine, but character-wise, there's little to see. The good guys are paper-thin, comprising standard characters such as the Pretty Boy, the Family Man, the Tough Girl and the Flying One (yes, that counts as a personality trait in this movie).
And say nothing about the bad guys. They are all stereotypes with terrible accents, and some scenes can actually feel a bit culturally insensitive!
Vanguard's story is just an excuse for characters to get from one exotic place to another. Its dialogue is ridiculous. Plot elements are introduced in one scene and then completely forgotten about in the next, even when it would have made sense to make them reappear later.
But seriously who cares about all that boring stuff?
You have villains hunting people with hyenas! Car chases through buildings! Fights with cooking utensils! At one point, Chan leaps off a boat and kicks someone off a jet-ski. It's all so over-the-top, it's amazing.
Overall, if you're the kind who likes travel shows, but wish they had more explosions in them, then this film is for you. Don't expect anything too serious and you'll probably have a blast.
If you want a no-brainer, entertaining blockbuster you can watch and laugh with a bunch of friends about, then Vanguard is a van-good choice.
Don't expect anything too serious, and you'll get a blast at 'Vanguard'.
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