Director: Dante Lam
Starring: Nicholas Tse, Jay Chou, Peng Lin, Bing Bai, Andy On, Sammy Hung, Carl Ng, Kai Chi Liu
The Viral Factor follows Jon Man (Jay Chou), a soldier who is injured in the course of duty, while working to protect the capture of a scientist who has developed a new mutated form of smallpox. Having failed his mission and with an injury that has a bleak outlook, he retreats to the home of his mother to spend his remaining days. Once there he learns that he has a long lost brother, Yeung (Nicholas Tse) living in Malaysia and he travels there to meet him. Once there, he discovers his brother has led a less than reputable life, and destiny unfolds in such a way as to bring these long estranged brothers into conflict, along with Sean (Andy On), the former teammate who betrayed his mission and is now in control of the deadly virus.
Bringing together two of the biggest young stars in China and Hong Kong, Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse respectively, director Dante Lam’s The Viral Factor is a literally action packed film. Nary does a stretch of 10 minutes go by without some kind of action sequence and they are well choreographed and unique between each other. The action is fast and rarely lets up, if only to provide some exposition on the characters and/or allow the audience to catch their breathe. It’s Hollywood style excess, done in the trademark HK style.
It is very much a throwback to HK action films of the late 80’s and early 90’s, but with the modern filming techniques introduced since. Not a perfect film by any stretch; it does go on too long and unrealistic developments happen to move the story along, but it is fun and pure action. To look for too much would not serve towards the enjoyment of the film.The film has one of the largest budgets ever for a Hong Kong film and it really shows. From exotic locales, numerous explosions, and heaps of destruction; the production drips of expense and high costs. It is put to good use though, with the continuous action set pieces one after another; the production value is extremely high. The music is good, certainly building anticipation prior to some gunplay or building emotion to the character driven moments. Overall, a bit forgettable, but it serves the film well while viewing.
Jay Chou is not one of those actors I would call my favorite by any stretch, but he does a solid job in this one. He does many of his own stunts and there is definitely a development in his acting compared to just a few scant years ago. He’s not great yet, but I’m willing to give him more opportunities to prove himself after this one. Nicholas Tse fares a little better as Yeung and his work in action films continues to impress. He is definitely one of the few young HK stars who may have a solid career in action films. The supporting cast is decent as well, everyone doing their part to serve the film and push it towards its next scene.
In the end, The Viral Factor is solid and fun action film making. As a call back to the days when action was king in Hong Kong, fans, both new and old, will more than likely find a lot to like about the film. While not destined to be one of the great action films of Hong Kong, it is nonetheless a solid addition to the list of films in an action junkie’s collection.
You may enjoy the film if you liked: Invisible Target, Shiri, and Dragon Squad