Operation Red Sea, Hong Kong director Dante Lam’s latest military epic and follow-up to 2016’s Operation Mekong, is also loosely based on a true story: The evacuation of hundreds of foreigners and Chinese citizens from Yemen during the Yemeni Civil War. But the similarities to reality pretty much evaporate right away, in favor of a completely unhinged, totally jingoistic action extravaganza that’s about as deeply offensive as it is thrilling. Lam’s action extensively fetishizes the hardware on display, never missing an opportunity to show a cool gun doing its thing, resembling nothing so much as the Chinese Michael Bay.
As such, he’s created a work of nationalism that’s downright silly and that’s also a blistering military action film. It’s pointlessly bloated, certainly racist, and gleefully violent, and there’s virtually not one single Western war picture from the last 20 years that it doesn’t crib from. But the last 45 minutes are an almost non-stop parade of RPG fire, bloody squibs, histrionic sacrifice, fireballs, and oh yeah then there’s a tank fight. At its best (especially its final moments), it’s like Starship Troopers done completely in earnest. Bananas.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival 2018 | Dispatch 2.