For this endearing but somewhat underwhelming adventure with silly CGI effects, Veteran Hong Kong action director Stanley Tong reunites with his longtime star, Jackie Chan.
Chan is given one or two comic moments, but as Tang, the “elder statesman”-like director of an elite private security company called Vanguard, who watches over tough, battle-ready and seemingly runway-ready young people, he plays a very straight and stately role—and sometimes pulls off a few martial arts moves.
In London’s Chinatown, a Chinese accountant and his young wife are abducted, and Vanguard (with his ridiculous headquarters full of people wearing headphones and staring at computer screens) is charged with rescuing him, his wife, and his pretty daughter, who in a nation-state initially referred to as “Africa.” is doing commendable conservation work.
As she frolics with CGI big cats in the Lion King world, she is also at risk of abduction. Though frowning on his supposed unwitting ties to weapons dealers, the root of all his troubles, Tang and his crew are determined to rescue their husband. From London (where Chinatown and Buckingham Palace are seemingly next door to each other) to a fictitious country that looks vaguely like Zambia, and then to the unspeakably dull but rich world of Dubai, their adventure takes them all over the world. The jet ski scene on the edge of a waterfall wins points, but this feels throwaway: as part of the film’s shrill and slightly humorless patriotism, Chinese New Year is seriously referenced.-Vanguard is available in theaters and streaming formats starting on January 8.