Director: Dante Lam
Writers: Dante Lam & Jack Ng
Cast: Jay Chou as Jon Man, Nicholas Tse as Man Yeung, Lin Peng as Dr. Kan, Andy Tien as Sean, Liu Kai-chi as Man Tin, Crystal Lee as Champ
Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes
IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2063011/
Note: The advance screener I viewed was in multiple languages: English, Mandarin, Malay & Arabic (those were just the ones I could differentiate)
Plot: Jon Man, a Chinese security officer, travels to Malaysia to stop a former colleague, who plans to unleash a deadly virus, hoping to profit from sales of the vaccine and antidote. While there, Jon meets up with his long-lost brother and father, who are local low-level criminals.
I have no idea what the hell happened in this movie. There’s a super-virus, a bunch of crooks and corrupt cops, a few honest cops, multiple kidnappings, and some sappy family melodrama. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to care about all those details, so I won’t worry about them.
The Viral Factor is, first and foremost, an action flick, and it delivers on that point, if nothing else. Lam starts the action in Jordan, where a convoy navigates a maze of booby-trapped streets, while bullets fly indiscriminately. Then it’s on to Kuala Lumpur, whose skyscrapers and train stations provide ideal backdrops for the madness (a game of helicopter hide-and-seek is truly nutso-brilliant). Chou may be best known stateside for playing Kato in the Green Hornet movie, but he’s a huge star in Asia, and he jumps into the fight scenes with bone-crunching gusto. It actually hurts to watch these guys go at it, although you never worry about them, because they seem to be made of some quick-healing synthetic material.
Don’t expect much else. Lam and Ng spend too much of the script on Jon’s tangled (yet strangely boring) family history. Even the great action scenes are undercut by idiot plot mechanics – if this movie is to be believed, Malaysia has the worst security in the entire freaking world. We’re talking Death Star bad. It is not a flattering portrayal.
But, hey, a lot of stuff blows up real good, and our superhuman heroes save the day. You weren’t looking for anything else, were you?
This might remind you of: An early John Woo movie, with a Brosnan-era James Bond plot. That’s a very back-handed compliment.
Watch an early John Woo movie instead: Maybe Hard Boiled or The Killer – anything with Chow Yun-Fat.
- Loey Lockerby