Operation Mekong [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Well Go USA
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (2nd June 2017).
The Film

After having to slough through the highly overrated "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" (2017) starring Vin Diesel, it was a refreshing change to see an action film done correctly, again. Directed by long time veteran Dante Lam, "Operation Mekong" brings us an action packed film that is loosely based on a true event. Taking place in Asia’s Golden Triangle, an area that is infamous as one of the world’s largest drug manufacturing operations; it is also an area populated by nefarious drug addicts, gun slinging assassins, and is basically a den of sin and corruption. On October 5, 2011, two Chinese commercial vessels were attacked by a ruthless Myanmar drug-trafficking ring, and the end results were that 13 crew members were killed in a cold blooded fashion, and 900,000 amphetamine pills were found at the scene. In the film, the Chinese government reacts by assembling a team of elite narcotic officers, and dispatches them into the lawless fray. In reality, the Chinese government was rumored to have voiced plans to squelch the release of the film in Thailand if it was to be damaging in its portrayal of the Chinese government, but their fears were unfounded as this action packed film shows the forces of good firmly in charge bringing the drug kingpins to justice. The end results were that the film was a huge financial hit, and it is one of the highest-grossing films in China, ranked 17 as of 11/29/2016 according to the website movie.douban.com. Lam could have played this story out in one of two different ways: sticking to the hard facts and coming off with a semi-documentary feel, or developing this into a balls to the wall serious action film. I feel like Lam played his cards the right way.

The captain of the gang busting crusaders is led by the straight edge Captain Gao Gang (Zhang Hanyu) who is determined to solve this crime and disassemble the gang responsible for the murders. While there he is joined by a Golden Triangle based intelligence officer Fang Xinwu (Eddie Peng), and the two join forces to crush the ultra-bad drug pusher, Naw Kham, played with over the top malicious glee by Pawarith Monkolpisit. And talk about a serious film villain, Naw Kham is almost absurdly evil, grabbing handfuls of cocaine to snort, he delights in watching children playing Russian roulette, while touting a golden revolver, proclaiming loudly that he "is the master of the Mekong river.” At times the film borders on the point of absurdity, especially when it shows children taking hits on drug pipes and playing a game of Russian roulette like they just walked off the set of "The Deer Hunter" (1978), but Lam does not explore this exploitative side of things and just uses it as filler between action sequences.

The special forces team is made up of various characters, all named after Greek gods, such as Liu Xianda as Xie Wenfeng "Icarus", Jonathan Wu Linkai as Kuai Yitong "Hermes", Zhao Jian as Guo Xu "Poseidon", and Zhan Liguo as Fu Baowei "Panoptes". Each of these characters are experts in specific fields such as demolitions, another an expert in telecommunications, a female named Aphrodite is a skilled driver: this gives the film a feeling of being akin to a comic book such as "The Avengers" etc., but this is doesn't add or subtract from the overall intensity of the film.

The plot of the film is somewhat muddy at times, and there are a lot of characters to keep track of at times, but Lam focuses the spotlight on the two main characters of Gang and Fang by supplying them with a bit of backstory; Fang Xinwu being devastated by witnessing his heroin addicted girlfriend committing suicide in front of him, and Gao missing his young daughter through videos on his phone, but this is hardly considered a substitute for developing a fully developed memorable characters. Director Lam instead focuses on what is the true purpose of the film which is wild chase scenes, harrowing shoot outs, and plenty of explosions. Action fans will surely love "The Fast and the Furious" (2001-2017) inspired scene in a crowded mall where a villainous henchman tries to make his escape by stealing a sports car that was on display resulting in a spectacular crash sequence. The pace of the film is pulse quickening as Lam keeps cranking up the tension, piling on one insane scene on top of another, finally coming to an intense jungle shot out scenario that would make Rambo proud. Major props go to special cadet Bingo, a canine recruit that steals every scene that she is in.

In summary, filmgoers should not be seeking fully developed characters in this film, but treat it as an action packed roller-coaster ride of pyrotechnic treats, wall shaking explosions, and fingernail biting suspense. This is easiest the best action film of the year so far, and audiences should be thrilled with Lam's expertise in handling all the details, and keeping all the balls in the air.

Video

Presented in 2.35:1 HD 1080p 24/fps mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression, the image features a rich use of a colorful palette ranging from urban locations such as street scenes and an indoor mall to a vibrant jungle hold for the villain. The camera work from Yuen Man Fung is excellent and the action sequences orchestrated by Wei Tung are all over the top incredible.

Audio

Presented in either Mandarin DTS X 5.1 surround or Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Julian Chang's score is rich and never overwhelming, simply backing up the action and providing a few rousing anthem pieces for the action sequences. The DTS X soundtrack is put to good use for any scene involving firearms as the bullets whistle and whiz out of the speakers. Optional subtitles are included in English.

Extras

Well Go USA has included a 6-part featurette, bonus trailers, and a second disc which features a DVD copy version of the film. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

Bonus materials include a 6-Part "Making of" featurette:

- "Uncovering the Truth" (2:53), Director Lam explains the necessary research that was done to fully understand the volatile situation that was represented.

- "The Team" (2:33), the problem of casting the proper actors for the film is covered.

- "The Secret Mission" (3:03), the use of the variety of complicated sets is examined, how various leads reacted under physical duress.

- "The Journey" (4:15),fFilming on location is always difficult but this included chase sequences on the water, the use of helicopters, and keeping the element of realism present in the film.

- "Two Heroes" (3:43), explores the personalities of the two lead actors and the conflicts within actor.

- "A Force of Nature" (3:01), the problems and difficulties of filming in authentic locations such as the Mekong river and various chase sequences in a public space.

Bonus trailers are included for:

- "Prison"
- "Mine"
- "Cold War 2"

DISC TWO: DVD

This is a DVD copy version of the film.

Overall

The film delivers on all fronts with excellent use of on location filming, and a first rate script based on a true incident.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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