The Vanguard – written and directed by Matthew Hope (IMDB).

I had heard some negative things about this low budget British genre film, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised even though I can see why not everyone enjoyed the film. Yes the 3rd act disappears up it’s own nether regions and delivers the most pointless and badly played out finale – compared to the interesting set-up – but I for one will happily watch this film again and here’s why:

The Vanguard  reminds me of the classic low-to-no-budget genre flicks that first came out in the 80s. It’s like a love affair to the films of Chuck Norris, fused with a bit of a John Woo / Romero-remake mash-up. There are some very cool and memorable visual moments. Yes, it’s mostly style over substance, but when I watched it I could see the film I think they hoped they were making, beyond the film I was actually watching. In the hands of real filmmakers it would have been a massive break-through hit, of that I’m sure (I don’t mean to say these guys were not ‘real filmmakers’ in an insulting way, but think that with more time polishing the script and raising a budget the film could have been that much better).

The only difference between this film and the films of the 80s, to explain the negative reception to the material, is that technology has moved on and come down in price since the days of lensing these movies on actual film – so anyone can do it – and we have grown blase about genre films and stopped appreciated each new film for its uniqueness, instead just seeing it as yet another wannabe and comparing it to every other film. If this film had come out back then we would have loved it – even for its imperfections.

The film concerns Max – a lone axe-wielding survivor of a corporate depopulation programme, or so he believes. When the Oil reserves run out, the corporations release a bio weapon on the world and Max is considered to be the only person immune to their contagion, so they send out a band of genetically engineered Trackers to hunt him down. Between the Infected and the Trackers – will Max survive and is he carrying the cure?

There’s no real clear plot – the synopsis on the website makes no sense from a logic point of view. The theme is garbled and the conflict and back-story are unclear – possibly because they were too difficult to film on so low a budget. Some of the action scenes are overlong – or overly convoluted and don’t pay off – as if improvised and not professionally choreographed to tell a story within each scene. The infected just aren’t scary… at all….ever… and there’s a bit too much running around to make for any real drama. But there were some brilliant visual moments that deserve a moment of praise – such as the easy rider chopper tribute, which had me in stitches.

So why do I love the film? Because it sounds like I hated it doesn’t it?

Actually no, I do like it. It is only when I put my critical hat on that I look at the imperfections. But when I watched it the first time I watched it with 80’s eyes and loved the first two acts. And I still think there is a gem of a film here, waiting to be remade. But until that happens I’ll just play that version in my head.