it is the lingering legacy of the Opium Wars, but China is definitely not
onboard the drug de-criminalization bandwagon. The Mekong River massacre of
Chinese merchant sailors only strengthened their national resolve. The real
life murders of Chinese nationals and (more to the point) the subsequent hunt
for drug lord Naw Kham inspired Dante Lam’s latest action spectacle Operation Mekong (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
of Gao Gang’s elite squad go by their Greek god code-names, but they just call
him Captain, because that is what he is. In contrast, Fang Xinwu is a bit of a method
actor-wild card. The intelligence officer has a highly placed informant in Naw
Kham’s operation, but his troubled history makes him highly unpredictable. He
also happens to be a master of disguise—a talent he will put to good use. Despite
their personality clashes, they will work together to apprehend the drug trafficker
and his top deputies, so they can stand trial in China.
addition to demolitions and surveillance experts, Gao Gang’s team also includes
Bingo, a remarkably well trained German Shepard. She is definitely handy to
have around, but don’t think this is a Benji movie, because it isn’t. Anyone on
this team could go at any time, but at least Lam, the action master, will send
them off with spectacular deaths. Lam also gives his current leading man of choice
Eddie Peng a truly memorable entrance, in the Third Man tradition.
Fang, Peng again proves he has matured into an action star with serious chops.
Of course, few can ever hope to match the grizzled hard-nosedness of Zhang Hanyu,
who does his thing with the deadpan panache. Lam puts them both through their
paces in a number of cinematic yet believably grounded action sequences. Plus,
Bingo upstages everyone in her action scenes, just like W.C. Fields warned.
However, the villains never inspire much of an audience response, which is a
drawback. Pawarith Monkolpisit is far too bland as the drugged out Naw Kham and
Vithaya Pansringarm never gets to establish much character as the cartel rep
looking to cut ties with their wildly unstable Golden Triangle sub-boss.
Still, Lam unleashes some impressive chaos when
Gao Gang’s team finally raids Naw Kham’s hideout. Operation does not have quite the heft and ironic gravitas of
Johnnie To’s Drug War, but it
definitely gets the job done for action fans. Recommended for those who dig Special
Ops movies, Operation Mekong opens
this Friday (9/30) in New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Action films, Chinese Cinema, Dante Lam, Eddie Peng