viral-factorOn The Run

The Viral Factor
Stars: Jay Chou, Nicholas Tse, Lin Peng, Bai Bing, Liu Kai-chi, Elaine Jin, Crystal Lee and Andy On
Director: Dante Lam
Scriptwriters: Dante Lam and Jack Ng
Cinematography: Kenny Tse
Composer: Peter Kam
Emperor Motion Pictures/ChinaLion Entertainment
Languages: English, Mandarin and Cantonese with subtitles
Rating: PG 13 for violence
Running Length: 119 minutes
How to prevent the bad guys from gaining access to a new strain of smallpox virus, mutate it and either release it and kill millions, or ask for money. Such is the plot of The Viral Factor, Dante Lam’s latest film. Most martial arts films would stop at this premise, but the script by Lam and Jack Ng, brings a poignancy to it by having, Jon, a police agent (Jay Chou) and one of the bad guys, Man (Nicholas Tse) as long-lost brothers. Man lived with the father (Liu Kai-chi) while Jon lived with the mother (Elaine Jin.) To change the mix even further, Man, the bad guy, has a daughter, named Champ (Crystal Lee). Even bad guys can have a soft spot.  All of the above leads to an interesting storyline that asks, “What comes first, family or money?”
The film begins with a water scene and you will see how this has relevance. Then, we move to Jon, as a top agent and his girlfriend (Bai Bing), in Jordan protecting a scientist and his family from one location to another. The scientist was involved in producing a new deadly strain of smallpox. The planned route was a trap and there are major fatalities. Jon gets a bullet in the head. Doctors can't remove the bullet, so he travels home for rest and on the plane, meets a doctor (Lin Peng) who offers to help him. The doctor is kidnapped and Jon starts looking for her, while trying to fight off headaches. During the various chase scenes and harrowing situations, the two brothers recognize each other and don't know what to do. Each has a mission to finish---good and bad---but, suddenly, family is involved. Jon eventually meets his almost-forgotten father and his new niece, while Man learns why he ended up living with Dad. The doctor goes back and forth between kidnapped and freed, kidnapped and freed, while the bad guys (Andy On as Sean, especially) are trying every trick in the book to get the smallpox vaccine into a deadly form and on to buyers. The lab that harbors the vaccine is as beautiful as a museum and colored blue. In fact, most everyone in the film wears a shade of blue.
Besides being an action thriller, “The Viral Factor” has another story to tell, that of family dysfunction and what happens in the next generation because of the decisions of parents. Brothers, on both sides of the law, a family divided by one parent’s misbehavior, and in the next generation, a family division caused by crime. Can the decision-making process be mended? The script has several surprises.
The main actors do their own stunts and you begin to wonder how they survived a day’s film shooting only to do it again the next day. Chase scenes and car crashes include rolling a van in an irrigation ditch, jumping from a tall building, dodging bullets in a warehouse, dangerous helicopter ride, an ambush, and more. Anything and everything can be used as a weapon. The helicopter flying scenes were especially good, and I liked how the action within an enclosed space (car, for example) was well documented. It brought the audience into the action. Peter Kam’s effective soundtrack could stand alone. Big cities at night are still beautiful. What bothered me was the fact that the subtitles were small.  At important moments, it was not easy to read them.
Copyright 2012 Marie Asner