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August 21, 2012

The Viral Factor

viral factor 1.jpg

Jik zin
Dante Lam - 2012
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

I can't fault Dante Lam for being ambitious. Starting in Jordan, with a brief hop in China, before settling in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, it seems like Lam was itching to bust out of the confines of Hong Kong. In addition to the chases on foot or by car, there's also a helicopter pursuit through the city. In terms of action set pieces, this is Lam's biggest film, yet it did grab me and leave me breathless like his previous film, The Stool Pigeon.

The story gets a bit complicated, but essentially in begins with Jay Chou as Jon, part of an international paramilitary group attempting to escort a scientist out of Jordan to asylum in Norway. The scientist created a new kind of smallpox virus that can not be treated with current vaccines. One sample of the virus is still in the hands of the scientist as a bargaining chip if there's a problem in getting safe passage. The escort team is ambushed, the scientist is kidnapped, and Jon is left with a bullet in his head and two weeks to live.

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A brief reunion with his mother in China ends when Jon is encouraged to seek out the older brother he didn't know he had. The brother, Yeung, is in Malaysia. It also turns out that Yeung is involved with the people who have the virus sample, a criminal gang with plans to profit from biological terrorism.

The Viral Factor is Jay Chou's first film since The Green Hornet, and Lam has made the still boyish looking pop star look a bit more mature, and much grittier than he's appeared previously. The DVD supplemental interview would indicate that Chou is ambivalent at best about doing another demanding action film such as this, but he carries himself well. Nicholas Tse has much been around the block previously with Lam and The Stool Pigeon, and several other action films under his belt. For the most part, The Viral Factor is a two man show with Lam putting his two stars through their paces, matching each other for the most part in stunts and shootouts.

The film gets more emotionally involving near the end with the race against time, with Yeung's kidnapped daughter is infected with the virus and only has a few hours to live. The Chinese title translates as "uphill battle". Both Jon and Yeung are up against obstacles that neither can change, in addition to finding themselves caught between various law enforcement agencies and the criminal gang. Lam revisits themes of people caught in impossible situations that test loyalty or conscious. The action scenes are expertly filmed, if over reliant on lots of editing. Still, I felt The Viral Factor might have been a bit better if Lam had pared down the technical virtuosity in exchange for a little more heart.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 21, 2012 08:25 AM


I saw this a little while back and enjoyed it though I found it a bit messy in the story department.

I did love the chase sequences - particularly the long one that goes from car to foot to car chase again. There's a moment when the car comes ripping through a busy street and there's a great wide shot from above. I watched that two or three times and I still couldn't figure out how they did it. Doesn't look like a typical crane shot!

Posted by: Marina at August 22, 2012 12:31 PM