Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Operation Red Sea


Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :1star:
Final Score: :3.5stars:


Dante Lam is one of those directors that I like to categorize as being ALMOST great. He has a fantastic sense of action choreography, along with a passion for the genre (he was an actor and stunt man back in the day), but his film’s literally teeter on the edge of being good vs. bad. His biggest problem stems from the fact that he likes to make what I consider “propaganda” films for the so called “People’s Liberation Army” of China, so his movies are full of “ra ra ra!” patriotism for the Chinese military. Which is all well and good, IF he can make it a part of the story instead of making the story seem like a marketing piece for the Army. His “operation X” series is certainly more entertaining than his Wolf Warrior films, but Operation Red Sea suffers from a few flaws that were prevalent in Operation Mekong. Mainly an over bloated plot and the typical military propaganda that mainland Chinese films seem to be burdened with these days.

Much like Operation Mekong, Operation Red Sea was supposedly taken from a real life incident, and then blown up into a gigantic fireball of Dante Lam destruction for the actual film itself. He seems less intent on providing a real life depiction of the actual operation, but rather uses the incident as a stepping stone to create a series of high octane action sequences to fill out the 2 hour and 18 minute run time with. This time we’re dealing with an extraction mission from a country in upheaval, as well as a side mission to take possession of stolen “yellowcake” (uranium used in the makings of a dirty bomb). Much like Operation Mekong, we start out the film with a high powered sea pirate encounter where we ware introduced to the Jialong commando team and their near super powered abilities (slight sarcasm there). After one of their own is shot in combat, the team members have to accept their beloved sniper’s protege and a brand new mission.

The film segues over to an intrepid reporter (they all are in movies aren’t they?) who is researching a corruption scandal gone awry. However, the target of her investigation is also seemingly in the middle of a terrorist plot, as she has just received information about him transporting “yellowcake” to the Middle East. Which just so happens to be a country in upheaval and is the target of the Jiaolong commando team’s next mission. As the Jiaolong and their crack team of commandos make their way to the Middle East to extract a group of Chinese citizens trapped in the war zone, they are given an even MORE important mission when they meet up with our intrepid reporter. To find the yellowcake and keep it from becoming a nuclear weapon in the hands of the terrorist organization fueling the uprising.
Operation Red Sea is really just an excuse to watch things blow up if you think about it. There is an element of truth in the movie’s premise (although they changed Yemen to Yewaire for some reason), but most of the movie is focusing around bullets flying in slow motion, and high flying action sequences strung one right after the other. While the initial action sequences in regards to extracting the Chinese populace in Yewaire takes up nearly 40 minutes of the movie, the REAL story starts after that 40 minute mark when we get to the dirty bomb and Xia (the reporter, played by (Hai-Qing) introducing her story into the way.

Much of the fictionalized stuff really is a lot of fun, because the main purpose you or I are watching a Dante Lam film is to watch things get blown up, shot up, cut up, and basically beaten up every few minutes. On that front Dante delivers in spades. The man has a unique eye for action choreography, and he does a few overhead action shots (such as when the Chinese military is cut down by the terrorists enroute to extraction) that are REALLY neat to watch. Also his hand to hand combat scenes are magical. It’s not as much Kung Fu as traditional Chinese action flicks, but Lam knows his way around military weapons and does a great job showing off some really unique weapons as well. You can tell that the film was obviously meant for a 3D release, as Lam fits in tons of slow motion pop out effects (like bullets leaving the barrel and slowly ripping through the body as it travels into the foreground of the scene), but sadly the U.S.A. has to make due with the 2D only release.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video: :4.5stars:
According to IMDB, Operation Red Sea was shot with a variety of different digital cameras ranging in resolution from 2.8K all the way up to 6K (and then finished on a 2K master). The end result is a very nice looking encode from Well Go USA, and one that is normally very sharp. The opening shots with the pirate freighter are so sharp you feel like you could just reach through the screen and touch something. However, there is some mild banding in the darker scenes, and some of the different cameras can give it a bit of a soft look at times (especially over in Yewaire). Also, the film is color graded differently depending on the location. Yewaire is more yellow and sand, while the Chinese war ships have a distinctly gun metal and blue look to it. Colors are well saturated, and you can see the blues of the Chinese military uniforms, or bursts of red blood quite nicely. The blacks are deep and inky, though the banding is mostly relegated to these darker moments and look a bit more washed out than they COULD have been. Overall, this is an excellent looking transfer that just has a few minor flaws to it.

Audio: :5stars:
Just like the movie itself,
Operation Red Sea comes with a bold and over the top DTS:X track in the original Mandarin that really is a treat to listen to. A sonic assault on the ears, the DTS:X track pounds away with deep and guttural bass, turning every bullet into a cannon, and the score itself into a pounding attack. Guns, explosions, rocket launchers oh my, this is a mix that will certainly make any bass head grin with glee. The surrounds and overheads are not ignored, as the film uses some great discrete sounds and some directional ambiance during the battle scenes to really put the listener right into the heart of the action. Rockets whistle over your left shoulder, bullets go from one end of the sound stage to the other, and helicopter rotors thud ominously overhead. Dialog is still intelligible at all times through the chaos, and the wide dynamic range allows for some really impressive jump moments.

Extras: :1star:
• Deleted scenes
• Original trailers

Final Score: :3.5stars:

Operation Red Sea is a bit long, a bit over bloated on the plot points, but it is still a decently fun action movie. The characters are your typical over the top “ra ra go China!” stereotypes of a mainland Chinese film, but the action is high octane and well done, making up for some of the obvious flaws. Lam’s biggest issue comes in the form of pacing, as he has a difficult time turning Xia into a main character (she goes from damsel in distress to full on commando almost overnight), but once again, these are not insurmountable issues in the film. The biggest thumbs up I can say is that Lam introduces semblances of character development and emotional resonance with the Jiaolong team, something which he had NONE of in Operation Mekong, and it really makes the film a little bit better than it’s predecessor (if only by degrees). The Blu-ray is excellent to look at, and features a demo worthy DTS:X track, but the usual dab of extras is a bit disappointing. Recommended as a decent watch.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Yi Zhang, Johnny Huang, Hai-Qing
Directed by: Dante Lam
Written by: Ji Feng
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS:X, Mandarin DTS Headphone:X, Mandarin DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, Mandarin (Simplified)
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 138 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 24th, 2018

Recommendation: Decent Watch



AV Addict
Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. Will catch it on amazon prime/netflix once available.
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