Unclassified. In English and Mandarin with subtitles. AMC Boston Common and Suburban Theaters.
Jackie Chan’s 9th collaboration with producer-director Stanley Tong (Supercop), Vanguard is a Chinese production that leaps across continents, mixing real physical stunts with not-so-real CG action scenes. This is proof that – we-don’t-need-no-stink-physics – Fast & Furious-style, the extravagant action scenes have made their way into the international market (or maybe that’s where they came from), and they’re not going away anytime soon. I mean, really, are you ready for airborne SUVs, a nice guy with an assault rifle on a jet skateboard, bee-sized drones or – Holy Goldfinger – super- solid gold cars making donuts on the wicked streets of Dubai? If you’re wondering how heavy a golden car can be (and how fast), you’re probably not Vanguard’s target audience.
But the film has its pleasures, not least of which is watching Chan take a back seat to two younger (and notably taller) actors, who play agents in the ultra-high-tech security firm called Vanguard, of course, which Mr. Tang owns and operates. These include a married man and new father Kaixuan (physical and comedic actor Lun Ai, similar to Jackie Chan) and brave singleton Lei (silly Yang Yang from Once Upon a Time), and in Typical opening scenes, they face off against a gang of mercenaries named the Arctic Wolves, who kidnaps a businessman and an injured Lei after a blazing shootout.
There is also a beautiful Vanguard woman named Mi Ya (model and taekwondo master Miya Muqi) The mercenaries then go after the environmentalist daughter of businessman Fareeda (Ruohan Xu), who is in Africa frolicking with a fake CG lion named Charlie. This allows for multiple jungle chase and shootout scenes, complete with a Jeep-type amphibious vehicle and a chaste romantic interlude with Lei and Fareeda in an egg-shaped avian observatory.
I mean, you can’t make this up. Or you can, if you’re the Tong screenwriter. What Vanguard doesn’t borrow from the Fast & Furious series, it is inspired by the James Bond films, although I have to say that Vanguard could have used a better-cast super-villain than the gentleman aggressor, who wants to make a hole in an American plane. carrier docked in Dubai. Screenwriter Tong’s efforts to flatter Dubai security forces suggest a nice cut for filming in this budding hotspot.
The action begins in London and has a lot of scenes shot in and around an ancient fortress in India (I think). Tong has a big eye for existing sets, and the action is much better than the acting in his film. A scene with a brown face should have and could have been easily abandoned. The English dialogue included to make the film more user-friendly for English speaking countries is sometimes awkwardly spoken. Chan allegedly nearly drowned while shooting an elaborate streak down a river with jet skis and gasoline dinghies. Kaixuan’s baby thinks his father is the real Captain China, an action figure. Can you say, the Vanguard merchandise? Even at 66, Chan still has the moves from the action movie, sliding off the hood and into the open door of a speeding SUV in one scene. With the help of him and many other actors, when he’s not shooting himself in the foot, Vanguard is a blast.
(Vanguard contains scenes of hand-to-hand combat and gun violence)
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