Director: Dante Lam (as Lin Chaoxian)
Writer: Ji Feng
Stars: Yi Zhang, Johnny Huang, Hai-Qing
Despite the same director and a similar title, this is not a sequel to Dante Lam’s gonzo crime epic, Operation Mekong. If you saw that one, you know it was ballsy, brash and loaded with hyperkinetic, over-the-top action sequences. Operation Red Sea is even bigger, louder and a hell of a lot bloodier. In fact, it might boast the highest on-screen body count of any movie I’ve ever seen.
A war film similar in structure to Black Hawk Down, the basic plot has eight soldiers from the crew of a Chinese naval ship attempting to evacuate government personnel from the (fictional) country of Yewaire during a terrorist takeover. Unfortunately, the people are taken hostage, turning this into a rescue mission with almost no support from the locals. Aided by a dedicated French-Chinese journalist, the soldiers also discover these terrorists have plans to build a dirty bomb using stolen yellowcake.
The story, while interesting, is merely perfunctory, as are most of the characters. Aside from the squad’s lone badass female and another whose love of candy provides (very) brief comic relief, we barely learn who these people are. Once the conflict begins in earnest, because they’re gear is nearly identical, we often don’t know who we’re watching during a particular skirmish, even in relatively close quarters.
But ultimately, that’s okay. Black Hawk Down wasn’t exactly a character drama either. The real star is the mission itself, and in that respect, Operation Red Sea succeeds…and then some. Not only is the action phenomenally rendered, it is relentless, with only brief moments of exposition linking one destructive and violent sequence to another. That the film manages to sustain this level of energy for nearly the entire running time without becoming rote is pretty remarkable.
Again, the volume of on-screen human attrition is staggering, making the handiwork of John Rambo look like he was on a peacekeeping mission. Good guys & bad guys alike are dispatched with such regularity that keeping count is an exercise in futility. While some of the violence is highly-stylized (including some slow-motion & CGI), much of it is gritty, visceral and extremely bloody.
Believe it or not, as of this writing, Operation Red Sea is the seventh biggest film at the worldwide box office. Perhaps that’s not too surprising. The film doesn’t have a lot of depth or engaging characters, but with epic levels of fiery mayhem and violent spectacle, it’s hard to imagine any action fan walking away thinking they didn’t get their money’s worth.