International Security Affairs agent Jon (Jay Chou, recovering from his stint as Kato from 2011’s The Green Hornet) is on a dangerous mission to escort a criminal scientist to another country. En route, a member of his team, Sean (Andy On), turns out to be a traitor and shoots Jon in the head while kidnapping the scientist. When Jon wakes up in the hospital, a doctor tells him that within weeks, the bullet in his brain will cause complete paralysis. Jon returns to Beijing to see his mother, who confesses that Jon has a brother in Malaysia who was raised by his father, a gambler. Jon takes a flight to Malaysia to find his brother, Yeung (Nicholas Tse), and is soon mixed up in a high-stakes plot by Sean to release a new deadly enhanced pox virus upon the world making him and his benefactor rich in sales of the cure. Being hired by Sean to do his dirty work in carrying out this plot, Yeung soon realizes that he and Jon are brothers and the two team up to stop the nefarious plan. Many explosions, head-shots, helicopters chases, jumps and squibs ensue.
The Viral Factor is jam-packed with action, sometimes to the point of losing its focus. But it doesn’t matter as bullets fly with all the latest high-tech, hand-held ballistics technology money can buy. Every time someone digs out a rocket launcher or grenade, you can be assured that something is going to blow up real good. Most of the explosions are spectacular with everything from vehicles to buildings blowing up. I caught a couple instances where a car blew up and flipped that looked CGI, but most of the effects look practical.
The story involving Jon and Yeung threatens to meander the film into incoherence. At one point I had forgotten about Sean and his plan to unleash his deadly virus as Jon’s father makes amends with him. And later in the movie I got confused as to who was on whose side as corrupt cops chased Yeung who was being chased by Jon who was being chased by cops who were on his side – maybe something was lost in translation. But it all snaps back into place once Sean comes back into the picture, kidnaps Yeung’s young daughter and infects her. Everything straightens right back to the virus storyline. It’s almost as if Sean was snapping his fingers saying “remember what this movie is really supposed to be about”.
The movie itself is way too long and there were points where it looked like it was ending, only to keep on going. But it gives way to more action, which is good. As well, the soundtrack seemed a little chintzy for the epic, large-scale action that was taking place on the screen, cheapening the film a little. The acting is all good with Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse carrying a lot of the emotional weight with some very good performances by Kai Chi Liu and Elaine Jin as the parents of the brothers. Andy On as Sean speaks English for the entire film but he tends to sound a little wooden and monotone. It becomes part of the character after a while, sort of like he’s emotionless.
For all its faults, The Viral Factor is still a crazy thrill-ride. If you love action in virtually every scene, The Viral Factor is for you. Just be patient with it as it slowly focuses on the virus storyline.