review by Bobby Blakey
Over the years director Stanley Tong and martial arts action icon Jackie Chan have teamed up for some great films including Supercop aka Police Story 3, First Strike aka Police Story 4 and Rumble in the Bronx which finally got Chan the stardom in the states that he had been fighting for. Now they are reteaming for their new film Vanguard co-staring Yang Yang, , Ai Lun, Mu Qimiya, Xu Ruohan and Zhu Zhengting. Could they bring more martial arts magic to the screen or will it fail to strike the right target?
Vanguard follows the covert security company Vanguard who is the last hope of survival for an accountant after he is targeted by the world's deadliest mercenary organization. Their last film together was Kung Fu Yoga in 2017 that was a lot of fun but sported a lot of really bad CGI. Sadly this film is playing up more to that model than their earlier outings on that front once again, but it wasn’t a surprise since you can see it right away in the trailer so that actually eased the pain for me going in to that aspect but didn’t make it visually any better.
Stepping away from the bad CGI for a moment the film is actually a great action flick. There is a ton of martial arts action and gun fights as I had hoped for complete with varying wacky weapons and gadgets harkening back to films like Chan’s Armour of God films. The biggest difference being the focus on Chan. Make no mistake he does get in on plenty of the action, but it’s the younger members of the team that take on the brunt of the fighting. I was worried that it was going to be one of those where Chan is just kind of a face throughout the film but he dives right in early on and sticks it out bringing a toned down version of his usual antics, but in a way I think makes more sense for this role.
As a martial artist I am heading into a film like this I am not expecting all that much outside of some great action and this delivers. The fights are well executed with only a few bumps in the road and they keep them coming more so than I thought they might. The biggest blunders goes back to that CGI. You know pretty early it’s going to be that with the introduction of a CGI lion and from there the visual effects never get any better. In the past with the kind of
stuff they were doing I wouldn’t even be bothered by the use of the CGI, but almost everything they did here Chan has done via practical effects in some form or another in other films.
In the end the effects will turn off most, but for me the film harkened to old school Chan flicks and I had a ton of fun with it. This is one that will more than likely only work for hardcore old school martial artist fans like me especially if you aren’t a fan of these Asian action flicks. It doesn’t help with things like The Raid, Ip Man and Ong Bak taking things up a notch over the years to make audiences want something more. I love those, but this type of martial arts films are what I miss, minus that CGI that I am having trouble letting go.
Vanguard is in theaters now from Gravitas Ventures.