Jackie Chan is a treasure, especially to those of us who grew up watching his incredible martial art talents onscreen. He gets top billing in “Vanguard,” an unremarkable action film about a covert security company who must protect a man and his family from the world’s deadliest mercenary organization.
The only reason to watch a film like this is the stunt work, and the supporting performers show off their athleticism in a couple of decent fight scenes. If you came to see the 66-year-old Chan kick butt and take names, you’re going to leave as a dissatisfied customer. He can’t move like he used to, so he barely has anything exciting to do in the film.
The film creates the impression that it’s tailor-made for audiences in China, and most of the humor and storyline doesn’t translate well to North American viewers. I won’t go so far as to call it propaganda, but it comes close. Cartoonish Arabs are the villains, Chinese New Year features prominently, and the wildlife conservation message, while commendable, feels weird and out of place.
The action scenes are entertaining, from the typical fight in a kitchen to more inventive settings like a brawl between two boats on rushing rapids at the edge of a waterfall. The stunt driving is enjoyable, but the lousy performances and cut-rate production values sink the film. Abrupt fades to black and choppy directing (from Stanley Tong) is compounded by the laughably awful, overly cartoonish CGI.
Towards the end of the film there’s a wild ride through a Dubai shopping mall, but I’d venture a guess that most viewers will never make it that far through this stinker.