13 February 2017 | ebossert
A Rip-Roaring Action Thriller
Note: Check me out as the "Asian Movie Enthusiast" on YouTube, where I review tons of Asian movies.
In October 2011, the 13 crew members of two Chinese cargo ships were shot to death on the Mekong River, which runs through the Golden Triangle, and a large amount of metaamphetamine drugs were recovered from the crime scene. The Chinese government dispatches an anti-narcotics task force to the area to investigate. There they team up with an intelligence officer for a dangerous mission that takes them deep into the lawless jungles of the Golden Triangle and the lair of a ruthless drug-lord.
Now although there are a handful of protagonists here, two of the actors really step to the forefront, get the most screen time, and carry the film from start to finish – Hanyu Zhang and Eddie Peng. Hanyu Zhang previously appeared in films such as "The Taking of Tiger Mountain", "Special ID", "Bodyguards and Assassins", "The Message", "The Equation of Love and Death", and "Assembly." The thing I like most about this actor is his screen presence. He has a very commanding presence that keeps you engaged. With regard to Eddie Peng, I just covered him last week while reviewing "Call of Heroes" – so it's nice to see him in this one as well.
One criticism that I've read regarding this movie is that the story and character development are rather thin. I would agree with that criticism. The structure of the film basically goes like this. The narcotics unit gets "intel" about one of the drug lords, or someone who is associated with one of the drug lords, and they immediately take action. Sometimes, it's an infiltration and undercover sting – other times it's an extraction (or pseudo rescue mission) that takes place in a hostile area. These infiltrations and extractions may last anywhere between 10 minutes to 30 or more minutes of screen time, depending on the complexity of the particular mission. But in-between the missions, our protagonists basically do nothing but get ready for the next one. So there's really not much time for adding complexity or depth to the characters.
But with that said, "Operaton Mekong" more than compensates for this flaw with its blistering pace and action set pieces.
The action design is mostly gritty and diverse, with an emphasis on urban apprehensions and special ops strikes that involve gunplay and hand-to-hand combat that does get quite violent at times (there are a few intense scenes involving children and oppressed villagers). This creates a sense of thrill and suspense even though it does get unrealistic (especially in terms of how much damage our two heroes can take). This is definitely neat stuff, incorporating some creative equipment and technology, as well as one of the coolest dogs in recent memory. The dog in this movie – I think his name is Bingo – is awesome, and his usefulness contributes a certain creativity that you don't see in many action movies. And the sheer quantity of action is significant, meaning that things move at a very fast pace.
A few other positives I'd like to mention: There are some beautiful natural environments, as well as some great overhead shots of various country locales. International conflict and cast are also a nice mix.
This is a no nonsense crowd-pleasing action from Dante Lam, who previously directed "The Beast Stalker", "The Stool Pigeon", "Beast Cops", "Fire of Conscience", "Unbeatable", and "To the Fore."