VANGUARD (2020) review

Originally meant as a Chinese New Year 2020 film but pushed back eight months in the time of the Coronavirus, Stanley Tong’s Vanguard follows Tang (Jackie Chan), the head of an international security company named Vanguard, tasked with rescuing the kidnapped daughter (Xu Ruohan) of a businessman (Jackson Liu) whose past has caught up with him. From London to “Africa” (which in this film seems to be the name of a country) to Dubaï, flanked by his elite team that includes Mi Ya (Miya Muqi), Lei (Yang Yang) and Zhang (Allen Ai), Tang butts heads with a dangerous mercenary organization, the Arctic Wolves.

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THE HUMAN COMEDY (2019) short review

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Once a purveyor of polished, classy star vehicles – having directed Gong Li is Breaking the Silence and Zhou Yu’s Train, and Li Bingbing in I Do –  Zhou Sun seems to have devolved into a tone-deaf hack, on the evidence of the dire 2015 sci-fi comedy Impossible, and The Human Comedy, a criminally unfunny caper. It follows Allen Ai as a debt-ridden radio presenter who, much to the chagrin of his wife (Wang Zhi), becomes embroiled in a spoilt kid’s (Lu Nuo) ill thought-out scheme to repay his debt to a gangster (Simon Yam) by faking his own kidnapping and getting his rich father (Jin Shi Jie) to pay a ransom. The hitch is that said father isn’t too keen on getting back his son, whom he considers a massive failure. Speaking of massive failures, The Human Comedy is visually drab (lifeless, grey-ish cinematography and listless handheld camerawork reek of laziness), narratively muddled (the countless twists and double-crosses bore quickly), and never funny one second. Veterans Simon Yam and Jin Shi Jie are lone flickers of life, the talented Wang Zhi can do nothing with her thankless ‘resentful wife’ role, while Allen Ai and Lu Nuo gesticulate annoyingly – and with no chemistry whatsoever. This is an artistic nadir for Zhou Sun; let’s hope the only way for him is up. *