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Operation Mekong - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Mei Gong he xing dong

China, Hong Kong 2016


Dante Lam

Zhang Hanyu
Eddie Peng Yu-Yan
Chen Baoguo
Pawarith Monkolpisit
Sun Chun
Feng Wenjuan
Ken Lo Wai-Kwong
Carl Ng Ka-Lung
Mandy Wei
Vithaya Pansringarm
Bhubhing Bhangsa-Ard

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Operation Mekong

Operation Mekong - Film Screenshot 1

Story: In the Golden Triangle between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand thirteen Chinese fishermen are killed on the Mekong. Thai government officials call it a giant drug bust in which 900.000 meth pills have been secured. But the Chinese government doesn't believe the version Thailand propagates. They want to start an investigation themselves, but they also get the other governments on board. Actually, the Chinese government aims at starting a solo mission by the drug expert Captain Gao Gang (Zhang Hanyu) and his team, though. Gao has an informant in the Golden Triangle, Fang Xinwu (Eddie Peng), who informs him that drug lord Naw Kham (Pawarith Monkolpisit) is really responsible for the dead fishermen. However, it's impossible to get near to Naw Kham since he has assembled a true army around him - amongo them even child soldiers - and also because no one knows about his whereabouts. But Fang Xinwu has a mole in one of the drug lord's cells, who provides him with the information that there is someone who knows the whereabouts of Naw Kham, yet is tortured at the moment. A venturous rescue operation is put into action.

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Operation Mekong - Film Screenshot 4

Review: With "Operation Mekong" Dante Lam delivers a movie which packs more action than five standard action flicks together. And that's even an understatement. For this not to get boring at some point is the achievement of a variation of locations and a few innovative ideas. The pacing is insane and almost ridiculously high. There simply is no time at all for a breather. And that's a wise decision. This way you can seldomly work yourself up about the nationalistic tone of the movie - all Chinese are depicted as heroes - and the fact that this is actually one single giant anti-drug campaign for which a true event has been used as groundwork to throw all political correctness overboard and present an action spectacle which is truely impressive in its epic scale.

Operation Mekong - Film Screenshot 5

During the first half hour there is more action than we normally get to see in a full-length movie. If you are thinking that the director might shift down a gear or two until the finale, you are wrong. In fact, Dante Lam's newer action flicks are more mindless action cinema than anything else. The shootouts pass by without you paying them any attention, e.g "The Viral Factor". His last really good film "Unbeatable" was a bit quieter on the other hand. This time Lam once again delivers action that demands of you to check your brain at the door, but he does a lot of things right. The mission operations are tactically well-planned (more or less) and there are a lot of gadgets put to good use. This means that you actually get to see a few scenes which you haven't seen this way on the big screen before.

Operation Mekong - Film Screenshot 6

The action comes in many forms. Really impressive are some of the car chasing scenes. Apart from that there is also breathtaking action on rooftops, in the djungle or on the Mekong. A memorable location is also the shopping mall and a nice shootout taking place there. Yes, it's the variation of the locations and how the action is adapted to them which prevents you from getting bored despite all the explosions taking place. Furthermore, Dante Lam gives his film an epic scale by shooting his outdoor sets in all of their glory from a great distance or by bird's eye view. Camera drones for the win. Especially the lush green nature of the Golden triangle can really be a sight to behold thanks to its beauty. Apart from that Lam also makes use of some original camera work, which bestows the necessary kinetic energy on the movie.

Operation Mekong - Film Screenshot 7

And energy the movie oozes out without a stop. The score is hammering through the speakers without cease, but it's not unnecessarily obtrusive, and there are explosions by the second. Here, a special word of praise is in order since the movie seemingly had a giant budget at disposal. In truth, the director knows very well how to conceal problems when using CGI effects and he never focuses too long on a certain special effect so that you might make out some flaw. Some of those so-called "big budget productions" really should take a page out of Lam's book in this regard. However, during some melee combats the camera work turns out to be a bit too shaky. And the otherwise good directing doesn't extend to the elaboration of characters. There is nearly no room for such stuff here. There is the attempt to give the individuals some facets, but Eddie Peng ("Cold War 2") for example remains a bit too colorless.

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Operation Mekong - Film Screenshot 10

Zhang Hanyu ("Assembly", "The Equation of Love and Death") on the other hand succeeds in giving his role a certain depth that you normally wouldn't expect in such a movie. Other than that there is a German shepard dog, that you soon start to take to your heart and which becomes one of the film's biggest heroes, which is a true show-stealer. Even though I may have given the impression, the acting achievements aren't bad. Only the Southeast-Asian villains seem little eloborated which makes the finale remind us of the "Rambo" or "Missing in Action"-series and that's quite outdated and moreover everything but political correct. Children who run around with weapons and take drugs, yes, even children dying (shades of HK cinema), you get all that. But it isn't put to meaningful use, it seems halfbaked and the picture's overall tone doesn't get really darker because of it. But somewhat grittier. Yes, "Operation Mekong" is brutal, gritty action cinema which manages to fully please fans, if you don't care so much about details in a movie. And as an action film Dante Lam's flick is frankly speaking even pretty impressive.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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