My film review is on the big budget action drama ‘Operation Mekong’. This film is based on a real-life event surrounding a massacre that happened on the Mekong River in 2011, involving a drug lord from the “Golden Triangle” region of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand and 13 Chinese nationals who were operating shipping boats on the river. What complicated the storyline is that a massive shipment of methamphetamines are found with the 13 Chinese bodies and appear to be planted by this Thai or Malaysian drug lord to frame the Chinese sailors as being the real drug runners on the river. An elite Chinese anti-drug military unit is sent in to find out who did this, find the killers and bring justice and clear the names of the Chinese sailors murdered and framed as drug runners. The film came out in 2016 and was a hit then in China and currently it is one of the top grossing films in Chinese cinema history.
It is definitely an action packed wild ride film of the crime drama/ military genre. What is interesting though is how drugs are seen as evil, dirty and socially destructive and that this is not something that belongs in China. The drug lords and henchmen throughout the film are obviously Thai or Malaysian and they are repeatedly trying to find ways of smuggling drugs into China, almost like a reframing of the “Opium Wars” of the 19th century. No spoilers though on who dies or who gets caught in the end.
What is interesting though, is that the Chinese military special ops team are very close knit, very concerned about their families back in China and very intent on stopping drugs from coming into China, destroying traditional Chinese values and lifestyles. They are portrayed as very, very caring, very human and very sensitive towards lfe and death, even for being undercover special ops military. They even have a trained drug hunting dog as a part of their unit who is given quite a bit of screen time and much emotional attachment. Each of the team also have nicknames that are all Greek mythological characters in the English version of the film, but in the Chinese version they are Chinese mythological characters, again, a nod to Chinese values and traditions; which do not include illiict drug use and all that goes along with that (secure families, prostitution, gambling, money laundering, weapons trafficking etc.); things good Chinese citizens would not want to be involved with.
Overall it was pretty entertaining. It was a typical action/ military/ shoot them up movie, but it offered some insights into Chinese culture and their approach to law enforcement, teamwork and etiquette. Not one I could show in school, but entertaining to recommend.