‘Vanguard’ Review: Jackie Chan, More Avuncular Than Action This Time

In the 2018 picture “Bleeding Steel,” the daredevil performer Jackie Chan pulled off a remarkable action sequence on top of the Sydney Opera House. Thrilling, and a little surprising. The man turned 66 this year. He’s broken a lot of bones to entertain us during the course of a multidecade career and owes us nothing. But he’s still an international star. If he’s not going to kickbox atop high places, what should he be doing in movies?

“The Foreigner,” a relatively sober action drama from 2017 in which Chan gave a frankly middling performance, was one answer. “Vanguard” is more in line with his brand of amiable action mayhem Chan pioneered in 1980s vehicles like “Police Story” and “Project A,” only not as good.

Here, rather than do much stunt work (he figures prominently in one action set piece, an old-school waterfall bit), Chan wears a suit and observes as younger performers jump, kick, punch and get punched. Playing the chief executive of the titular high-end security company, he also recites a lot of banal “I’m concerned” dialogue as multiple villains converge on Fareeda (Ruohan Xu), a rich man’s daughter and African wildlife conservationist.

Extortionists to the left of her, poachers to the right; stuck in the middle with her is the dreamy Vanguard agent Lei (Yang Yang). Pursuing kidnappers elsewhere is Mi Ya (Miya Muqi), a Vanguard operative who objects to being used as a “honey trap” but soon shows up in a bathing suit to tempt a tough guy anyway.

“Vanguard” is directed by Stanley Tong, who made Chan’s “Rumble in the Bronx,” a 1995 movie in which the mountains of its Vancouver shooting location are prominent in many shots. Tong is not a stickler for verisimilitude. Hence, this movie’s ridiculous computer generated lions; hence also, its solid-gold sports cars.

Vanguard
Not rated. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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