On Oct 5, 2011, two Chinese cargo ships were attacked along the Mekong River, resulting in 13 Chinese sailors being *slaughtered before their *corpses were *discarded by a Myanmar drug-trafficking lord.
This exceedingly inhumane incident shocked the whole nation, and indeed the whole world. Through the countless reports that followed, we were all well-informed of what happened next – the warlord was captured and extradited to China in 2012. He admitted his responsibility for the crime to Chinese authorities and was then condemned to death.
Operation Mekong (《湄公河行动》), a film based on the *murderous *massacre which was released on Sept 30, topped the box office during the National Day holiday – beating star-studded romance film I Belonged to You (《从你的全世界路过》) and fantasy L.O.R.D.–Legend of Ravaging Dynasties (《爵迹》). You may wonder how a film telling a tale of something most of China is all too familiar with won filmgoers’ hearts (and their ticket money).
With a theme that could easily have been developed into an informational yet *tedious documentary about the perils of drugs, Hong Kong director Dante Lam (林超贤) made this film an exhilarating action thriller filled with violent fights and massive explosions. In a behind-the-scenes video, Lam says that as audiences are already well aware of the story’s beginning and end, his film focuses on depicting the behind-the-scenes operation of bringing the criminals involved to justice.
But this is just a walk in the park for Lam – many of his signature works are crime and *gangster flicks, including the critically acclaimed duo The Beast Stalker (《证人》，2008) and The Stool Pigeon (《线人》，2009).
Every second of the *knuckle-biting operation led by *narcotics officer Gao Gang (Zhang Hanyu) and undercover agent Fang Xinwu (Eddie Peng, 彭于晏) is tense and thrilling enough to keep the audiences on the edge of their seats. Throw in some crazy car chases, exploding buildings and intense, bullet-ridden gun battles, and you have an incredible action thriller on your hands.
“Though more *sensationalistic than serious, this film has a scale and an energy that rivals any Hollywood blockbuster,” a Los Angles Times review wrote.
Military films often aim to educate and one purpose of Operation Mekong is to get “more media attention and screen productions to show the public the dangers of drugs”, Zhao Zhongchen, a police officer who had taken part in the investigation of the case, said at a promotional event for the film in June.
And if this was its intention, Operation Mekong has exceeded this mission by visually bringing to our attention the shockingly brutal and violent underbelly of a world that most never see.
It’s easy for mainstream films about military action and drug wars to end up as a *solemn and depressing 90 minutes for the viewer, however this movie shows that the genre can also be entertaining when it wants to be.