Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Dateline Jordan:  Some scientist has created a super virulent strain of the Smallpox virus and it’s up to the International Defense Team to get this scientist and his family out of Jordan safe and sound.  Thirty seconds in, the mission is screwed.  Convoys are blowing up, bazookas are getting launched, the bullets are flying and IDC agents are dying.  Still, with IDC chief Sean Wong (Andy On) leading the way and with his top operatives Jon (Jay Chou) and Ice (Michelle Bai) close behind, it looks like the mission may succeed.  That is if Sean wasn’t so dang evil.  You will be hard pressed to find a person more rotten in cinema than IDC chief Sean Wong.  Next thing you know Jon has a bullet lodged in his skull, his true love Ice is dead, and Sean is on the run with this scientist and has a plan to poison the world.  This is how director Dante Lam’s explosive ‘The Viral Factor’ starts, and it will not stop being explosive until the final credits roll.  The explosiveness will slowdown a bit for some worthless melodrama, but it is a Chinese action / thriller so this is to be expected.

Because of where the bullet is lodged in Jon’s dome, he has roughly two weeks of mobility left, and he’s not going to waste those two weeks lying in a hospital bed.  First he makes a quick trip to visit his invalid mother (Elaine Karn) who hits Jon with the news that his father isn’t really dead and that he has an older brother.  It’s too complicated to get into, but there you go.  Next it’s off to Malaysia to track down this brother of his, who by the oddest of coincidences will find him first.  Turns out Jon’s brother Man (Nicholas Tse) is a mid level criminal and the two meet when Jon tries to stop Man from kidnapping the pretty virologist Dr. Rachel (Lin Peng) who was on the plane with him. 

Why was Man trying to kidnap a virologist?  In another amazing coincidence, Man and his crew were hired by Sean Wong… of all people… who happens to need a pretty virologist to complete his master plan.  Strange how these things work out.

Jon is a little rattled since he’s been in Malaysia all of three minutes has already been kidnapped, punched in the face, tied up, had a gun put to his head and ended up in car crash, but now it’s off to find his dad.  He finds him and dad was getting the snot beat out of him too.  Jon should probably go back home.  But he meets his dad (Liu Kai Chi) and he also meets his super cute niece Champ and you don’t put a kid that cute in a movie like this unless that kid is going to be kidnapped at some point in said movie.

Again the brothers meet, again it’s in the middle of mayhem and chaos, but now they are trapped into working together since the bad people are still trying to get a hold of this virologist, but they also have decided that Man’s value is diminished and he is no longer needed.  And, to the surprise of no one, his daughter has been taken.  Worst still is that Champ is under the watchful eye of the super Evil Sean Wong, and Sean has bad, bad plans for this little girl.  Can the newly reunited brothers save the little girl, and as a minor subplot save the Planet Earth before it’s too late?  Did we mention that Jon has a bullet in his dome and two weeks… or less… to live?

The last film we saw helmed by Dante Lam was the very depressing, gritty and semi-realistic ‘The Stool Pigeon’, also starring Nicholas Tse, but ‘The Viral Factor’ offers up a complete change of pace from ‘The Stool Pigeon’.  No sir, ‘The Viral Factor’ is an action movie and most everything takes a backseat to the explosive action.  You want explosions?  Check.  You want to see people get shot?  This movie has one of the highest body counts via death by bullet that we’ve seen in recent memory.  Check.  You want car chases?  Check.  Fist fights? Check.  Stab wounds?  Check.  Helicopter chases?  Check.  Dante Lam and his team wasted very little expense in designing and bringing these action set pieces to life, and as far as the action goes this was close to as good as it gets.  The helicopter chase scene might’ve been a little lame, but that’s just nitpicking.

Naturally, since ‘The Viral Factor’ is an action film it’s almost an unwritten rule that the movie make almost zero sense, and ‘The Viral Factor’ does very well in that category as well.  I mean it does make a little sense on the path to its bravura action sequences, but not much.  Sean Wong’s smallpox get rich quick scheme?  Pretty wacky.  Malaysian cops?  Worst cops ever.  The only thing they were good at in this movie was getting in the way of bullets.  Coincidences bordering on the comical?  It’s all there.

That being said, if I’m watching an action movie that’s taking up valuable time to make total sense, then there’s a good chance I’m watching a pretty lousy action movie.  ‘The Viral Factor’ is a very good action movie with solid performances from its cast and a villain so rotten it’s like he fell straight out of a Flash Gordon comic book.  Recommended for all connoisseurs of ridiculous action who don’t mind trudging through a little melodrama to get to their ridiculous action.

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