According to the pre-credits crawl at the beginning of THE VANGUARD, we use up all the oil on the planet by 2015, the world devolves into social anarchy, and a major Corporation develops a euthanasia drug as an attempt to cull the bloated population. The Corporation’s pernicious plan: simply administer their Kevorkian Kocktail as a required vaccine, kill off ¾ of the losers on the planet, and cha-ching!, oil shortage averted. But the scientists entrusted with the development of the drug decide to revolt, altering the chemical composition so that instead of merely putting the citizens to sleep, they’re instead transformed into bloodthirsty, 28 DAYS LATER-style creatures, growling monstrosities called Biosyns that do not require food or water to survive. That’s right, evil Corporation, you just got totally served by your own scientists! They felt guilty about killing off the majority of the population, so they just transformed them into soulless savages, instead. Nice work, people. Now hit the showers.
Max is one of few remaining human survivors. With his medieval beard and dual hand axes, he looks like a rabid escapee from a nearby Renaissance Festival (huzzah!), but his old-school appearance belies his talent as a wicked fast Biosyn killer, maniacally thumping his twin hatchets into downed creatures in more than a few highly satisfying kill scenes. THE VANGUARD features some virtuoso camera work and clever editing, and had the entire film centered around Max’s lonely plight as a Biosyn-hatin’ everyman, the film would have triumphed as a moody, post-apocalyptic vision of man’s solitary future in the I AM LEGEND vein.
But writer/director Matthew Hope bogs down his narrative with the baggy minutia of varied subplots until the entire point of his film seems lost in the trials of unnecessary secondary characters. There’s a Muslim soldier dispersed from the Corporation to seek and destroy any Biosyns, there’s a couple of members of “The Resistance” who have been separated from their group, and soon they meet up, along with Max, in the forest, and hold a lot of lengthy and boring discussions regarding individual allegiances and possible betrayals. It turns out that The Resistance hates the Corporation and Biosyns, and the Corporation soldiers hate The Resistance and the Biosyns AND the Corporation that employs them, and the Biosyns just hate everybody, even each other, because, you know, they’re basically just zombies. It’s a lot of hatred to keep track of.