9 Shares5 Comments
“Fire of Conscience” mastermind Dante Lam thoroughly understands the action genre. The director’s latest endeavor, the 2012 scorcher “The Viral Factor”, offers up one tantalizing set piece after another, and rarely takes the time to catch its breath in-between explosions. What’s amazing is that Lam somehow manages to tell a compelling story along the way, which, you know, is always a good thing to have around when you’re waiting for the next adrenaline-pumping fight sequence to show up. True, the plot isn’t anything you haven’t seen a hundred times before, and the coincidences often pile up to the point of absolute absurdity, but Lam effortlessly makes it all seem brand-spanking new. It’s seriously impressive stuff. In fact, I’ve already watched it twice.
Jay Chou stars as Jon, an International Security Affairs agent who watches helplessly as one of his traitorous teammates shoots him and his fiancee in the head during a routine escort mission. She, of course, dies on the spot, while Jon miraculously survives the ordeal with his hide intact. Here’s the catch: In about two weeks, Jon is going to be completely paralyzed from head-to-toe, leaving him little time to get his affairs in order. His first order of business is to take care of his mother, who suddenly reveals that Jon’s dead father isn’t really deceased after all. In fact, he’s alive and well in Malaysia, where he lives with his other son. Jon is understandably shaken by this confession, and, at his mother’s request, embarks on a quest to locate his missing sibling.
Courtesy of a convenient chance encounter on the mean streets of Malaysia, Jon bumps into dear old Dad, who is about to get his backside handed to him by a small cluster of thugs sent to collect on a debt. Father and son are finally reunited, though getting back together with Yeung, Jon’s long-lost brother, proves to be a bit more difficult. It would seem that he’s been hired by some crooked cops to acquire a few crucial elements for a deadly virus that a group of opportunistic villains are plotting to unleash. Did I mention that this group is spearheaded by the same guy who put a bullet in Jon’s cranium? Like I said, the coincidences are mind-bogglingly numerous. Some might say that it’s just fate working its magic, but, really, it’s probably just lazy writing.
Not that it matters. “The Viral Factor” works best when it’s violently thrusting its cast into a bevy of explosive situations, of which there are plenty. Be it blood-soaked gunfights, back-alley close-quarter fisticuffs, or metal-twisting car crashes, this one should please even the most discerning action buff. The film opens with a 10-minute shoot-out that seems heavily inspired by “Clear and Present Danger”, and, with the exception of a few character-developing moments sprinkled here and there, it never really lets up. Hell, there’s even a helicopter chase! Not too many action-oriented motion pictures can lay claim to that. Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou, meanwhile, work well as two brothers on opposite sides of the law. Sure, Chou doesn’t act much like a guy suffering from serious head trauma, but, like I said earlier, that ultimately doesn’t matter whatsoever. The flick is mindless popcorn entertainment, and it should be approached as such.
“The Viral Factor” is a well-rounded, emotionally-charged blockbuster from a director at the top of his game. All of his set pieces are exceptionally thrilling and remarkably well-staged, and, incredibly, there’s not a weak sequence in the bunch. Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou, together with Andy On as the picture’s villain, bring just enough depth to their respective roles to make you care whether or not they escape the storyline without dying in a blaze of glory. If you’re very to see a flick directed by Dante Lam, this is certainly a great place to start. Even those of you with a passing interest in Chinese action cinema will find much to love in “The The Viral Factor”. Unless, of course, you need more story with your action, in which case I have absolutely nothing to say to you. In my opinion, the exposition-to-explosion ratio is damn near perfect.
Dante Lam (director) / Dante Lam (screenplay)
CAST: Jay Chou
Kai Chi Liu