Review: OPERATION MEKONG 湄公河行动 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Review: OPERATION MEKONG 湄公河行动 (2016)

Review: OPERATION MEKONG 湄公河行动 (2016)

Based on true events surrounding the Mekong River massacre on October 5, 2011, that resulted in the death of 13 Chinese sailors, an elite team of Chinese narcotics officers led by Captain Gao Gang (Zhang Hanyu) is assembled to hunt down the man responsible for the murders. The team is also joined by Fang Xinwu (Eddie Peng), an undercover intelligence officer based in the Golden Triangle. After they discovered 900,000 methamphetamine pills on the ships, their investigation led to the notorious drug lord named Naw Khar (Pawarith Monkolpisit), who happens to monopolise the drug trade in the Golden Triangle.

REVIEW: No doubt the synopsis above sounds intriguing and Hong Kong action-movie specialist Dante Lam looks as if he is the right man for the job. However, OPERATION MEKONG is hardly the kind of fact-based action drama aimed for historical accuracy. Instead, Lam turned his movie into a straightforward action thriller filled with lots of explosions, gunfights and spectacular stunts.

Now, speaking solely for the action alone, this is where Lam excels the most. No stranger to choreographing large-scale action sequences seen in THE VIRAL FACTOR (2012), Lam alongside Stephen Tung Wai and Jack Wong Wai-Leung packed the movie with a series of impressively-staged action set pieces best experienced on the big screen. Aided with a digital enhancement of THE MATRIX-like slow motion effect, some of the action sequences worth mentioning here include an exhilarating car chase where Gao tries to dodge the RPGs, a mall shootout that leads to a car chase inside the building itself, and an all-out final assault on Naw Khar's jungle lair.

OPERATION MEKONG is also blessed with high production values. Edmond Fung Yuen-Man's cinematography is visually arresting, particularly the way he captures the bird's-eye view of the mountaintop and dense jungles.

Review: OPERATION MEKONG 湄公河行动 (2016)

Too bad Lam has forgotten two most important things in his latest movie: good story and characters. Whereas his last big-budget action blockbuster in THE VIRAL FACTOR isn't particularly deep in characters development, at least the two main stars -- Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou -- manage to deliver emotionally-charged performances. In OPERATION MEKONG, Zhang Hanyu and Eddie Peng are both wasted with their banal performances. Although Hanyu has the right look of playing a no-nonsense captain of the narcotics team, his acting is disappointingly stiff and wooden. Peng looks charismatic as always but a mere charisma alone isn't enough to make his character a standout. Lam did give him a meaty role, in which Peng's Fang Xinwu previously suffered from a devastating past after witnessing the death of his girlfriend. But Peng fails to pull it off as his supposedly emotional performance barely scratches beyond its perfunctory surface. The rest of the supporting actors are all forgettable while Pawarith Monkolpisit's performance as Naw Khar is nothing more than your standard cartoonish and over-the-top villain.

The story, credited to five screenwriters (!) including Dante Lam himself, is both hollow and generic. The movie tends to drag a lot whenever the action subsides, especially during a middle part where Lam attempts to develop small characters moment with Gao's team members. The biggest problem of all is that their characters are so underdeveloped it's difficult to root for them. 

Despite the high production values and well-staged action sequences, Dante Lam's OPERATION MEKONG is all style but no substance. 

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