Magazine article Screen International

'Operation Mekong': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Operation Mekong': Review

Article excerpt

Shoot first, ask questions later could be Operation Mekong's motto, and it's a sentiment that fits both on-screen and -off. The phrase proves relevant in the thick of the film's many gunfights and chases, as the story tracks Chinese detectives trying to hunt down a drug syndicate operating in Asia's opium-abundant Golden Triangle. It also aptly describes writer/director Dante Lam's (To the Fore) action-oriented approach.

Of course, the Hong Kong filmmaker has earned a reputation for his high-impact, high stakes and high body count hijinks but, even so, layering his usual proclivities over a re-creation of the real-life incident dubbed the Mekong River massacre is simultaneously surprising and expected. Going in guns blazing and attempting to set pulses racing might not feel wholly appropriate given the facts at the heart of the film, but it does suit Lam's usual style - not to mention audiences looking for non-stop thrill ride of a movie.

Since it bowed in theatres in China, that has certainly proven the case, the film continuing to top the local box office. Gradually making its way through international territories via either limited releases or film festival appearances will see the feature attract a broader audience, though it could simply become a placeholder for another take on the tale down the track. An English-language remake hasn't been announced but, thanks to every frenetic frame of Lam's effort, it feels almost inevitable.

Indeed, there's plenty of aspects to the violent events of October 5, 2011, that could sustain several big screen versions. On a stretch of the Mekong River bordering Myanmar and Thailand, two cargo ships took fire, 13 Chinese fisherman lost their lives, and 900,000 methamphetamine pills surfaced in the aftermath. Enter Chinese authorities intent on doing whatever it takes to bring the culprits to justice and stem the flow of narcotics in the region. Guided by Captain Gao Gang (Zhang Hanyu) with the assistance of undercover operative Fang Xinwu (Eddie Peng), they attempt to take down ruthless, murderous kingpin Naw Kham (Pawarith Monkolpisit).

It's a deadly pursuit, but someone has to do it - and someone else has to reduce all that police work down to its broadest strokes. …

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