The Mekong river cuts through Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, and has become a breeding ground for drug activity. When 13 sailors are executed and a huge amount of methamphetamine pills are recovered, people are initially relieved. Things don’t seem right though, and the Chinese government sends in a group of elite narcotics officers led by Captain Gao Gang (Zhang Hanyu) to discover what is happening. He meets up with intelligence officer Fang Xinwu (Eddie Peng) and together they discover that the drugs were planted on the boats by a local drug lord named Naw Khar. An incredibly unstable individual, even the other drug lords want Naw Khar taken out, but as the narcotics officers get closer to capturing him, things become increasingly deadly.

Operation Mekong packs an insane amount of story and action into its 2 hour running time, and every moment of it is nail-biting tension. Each action sequence is bigger and more explosive than the last, and there’s no telling who will come out alive in the end. It keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire time and you won’t be breathing until the credits roll.

Despite the incredibly dense plot, things flow rather smoothly. There’s always a convenient meeting of officials to get the audience up to speed on the latest developments, and the various conspiracy ideas all lead to the truly evil Naw Khar. Employing child soldiers to deliver bombs or to move around unnoticed, there’s very little that Khar won’t do to maintain his stranglehold on the drug trade in his area.

Based on true events, there’s little chance that director Dante Lam’s film comes very close to anything that actually happened beyond the initial incident on the river. Operation Mekong leaves truth and reality behind in favour of incredibly explosive action, and it does it spectacularly well. A shootout at a mall begins as a very tense undercover operation before falling apart in outrageous fashion, including driving a car through the hallways of the mall. The final assault in the jungle is an almost never-ending series of explosions and gunfire, and that all winds up as a boat chase in the end.

The action is outstanding, although it does tend to overshadow the story at the heart of the film. That’s a bit disappointing as this was an actual tragic event that happened. Not everybody is happy to see it be the basis for what is really just an excuse to blow things up, but it’s hard to deny that as an action film, it works perfectly.