Virtuoso martial artist Jackie Chan reunites with director Stanley Tong for a sixth time to diminishing returns in this comical espionage, globe trotting caper. A Far East import intended to coincide with Chinese New Year celebrations that is in Mandarin and English with subtitles.
Vanguard utilizes plenty of digital work with stunt choreography in what is much whizzy, outrageous mayhem filled with tactical maneuvering and undercover trickery that tries aimlessly to sate those awaiting the latest and delayed 007 installment.
Nevertheless, the outrageousness at times played for laughs becomes too comical in a tale that moves from London to the Sahara and finally to Dubai. The opening has thuggish Broto (Brahim Chab) kidnapping wealthy businessman Qin (Jackson Lou) who has caused distress for terrorist bigwig Omar (Eyad Hourani).
The bumbling narrative with overly informative dialogue involves the elite titular security firm headed by Chan’s honorable Tang with younger agents Lei (Yang Yang) and Zhang (Al Lun) on rescue detail. Subsequently, Lei and Qin’s wildlife conservationist daughter Fareeda (Ruohan Xu) are in trouble with Broto after Fareeda tried eluding a pernicious poacher. So, it all leads to a face-off against a brawny goon (Tam Khan) after a unit is deployed to retrieve them.
It seems like aging director and star (who’s more of an underlying figure here) know they’re a part of what is essentially a jumble live-action cartoon with gadgetry, battles, and chases, some of which are rather numbing. The wackiness includes awful camouflaging with the over-the-top tendencies rendering hectic pointlessness. Still, there’s mention of a ‘Captain China,’ gold-plated luxury automobiles and those cool drones around colorful locales.
Tong has to stage it all in a way to surge through the absurdity even if XU and Yang make the most of the thinly drawn characters through being a little scare and fearlessly intrepid; the later being a little like Chan back in the day with Tong as Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop are recalled.
While this type of entertainment might be described as a wild ride the gags aren’t really that flattering and don’t hold up well in the current political climate. A glimpse of what made Chan such a gifted Hong Kong recreation or reincarnation of a balletic Buster Keaton is just too diluted as he’s too often stuck in what could be mistaken as a giddy guilty pleasure. Regretfully, Vanguard is a disengaging, vapid action-adventure held together by its febrile set-pieces.