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Review Vanguard (2020): Heavily flawed but leagues better than Kung-Fu Yoga!

genre: action, martial arts, bullet ballet

Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan used to be a golden duo. However, after the travesty that was Kung-Fu Yoga my trust in both of them was gone. So naturally I was a little cautious with Vanguard. And yes Vanguard is far from perfect and heavily flawed, but action wise it certainly is a return to form for both of them. Although not exactly in the way you would expect.

While Jackie Chan does take part in the big action scenes, he is not at the forefront of them. Most of the ass kicking is done by the younger actors, Yang Yang, Ai Lun and Miya Muqi. 

Especially Miya Muqi stands out as she is graceful but super though. She did all her stunts herself, and she spent three years learning jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts, free diving, parachuting, motor-biking and racing. You can really tell because she does look like she is very experienced. She definitely is one of the highlights of this film.  

Yang Yang also impresses. I think he is supposed to take over the wand from Jackie Chan, as he is always the one initiating the action scenes. I am not sure if he has any martial arts background, though. It doesn't really matter, since it does look like he is very capable in choreography. That being said. There aren't that many fights. Most of the action consists of gun combat and an occasional punch, kick and throw. It makes sense, since when people are shooting at you from left to right, wouldn't you shoot back? Would it have been nice to see Jackie Chan do a proper fight scene? Sure, but let's face it. He is 66 now. It just wouldn't be the same as he used to fight. However, him doing gun combat is the smartest move ever, since he does still have the agility and strength to make him look like a veteran soldier. It's my wish that Jackie Chan will either join The Expendables franchise or make his own Expendables film with veteran actors of Hong Kong cinema. 

Unfortunately, the film does suffer a bit in narrative, characterization and climax. Even for a Jackie Chan film, the plot is incredibly minimal. This would not have been a big deal had the characters been fleshed out a little more. I mean more than to point out how special and super they are. One of them is even being called Captain China. I know it's intended as a joke, but still it is left ambiguous so that some can take this claim seriously. I don't mind propaganda when it's in service of the action, but this kind is just too much. The finale which should have been explosive is rather anti-climatic. And I don't really understand why that is. It almost felt like they already just had shot the biggest action sequence and then decided to the finale as an afterthought. Actually, if it were up to me, I would have finished the film right after the big action sequence since that would have provided a stronger ending. 

Still, as an action flick, this certainly will give you the goods. Perhaps not as grand as we are used to from Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong. But still a whole lot better than most recent Hollywood action films, which weren't superhero films. 

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