Review: THE VIRAL FACTOR May Be The Year's Best Asian Action Movie!

Contributing Writer; Sydney, Australia (@HugoOzman)
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Review: THE VIRAL FACTOR May Be The Year's Best Asian Action Movie!

Viral Factor Poster.jpgIt's only January and there is already a serious contender for the best Asian action movie of 2012. That film is from HK and stars Asian superstar J.C.. But no, it's not Jackie Chan. It's Jay Chou who is in the film. Now please wait... before your anti-GREEN HORNET sentiment takes over and makes you stop reading, please take note that the film - THE VIRAL FACTOR - also stars Nicholas Tse (NEW POLICE STORY, SHAOLIN, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS) and is directed by Hong Kong action maestro Dante Lam (BEAST COP, BEAST STALKER, STOOL PIGEON). Plus it is the kind of cool action films that Jackie Chan was making in the 90s.

Dante Lam is on a red-hot streak right now. His recent films BEAST STALKER and STOOL PIGEON have given him recognition both locally and abroad, as well as solid box office earnings across Asia. THE VIRAL FACTOR is the director's most expensive film to date, and may be the best chance he has yet to become more well known to Western audiences. While the reported production cost of US$17 million is modest by Hollywood standards, it is already a massive budget in Asia. And it is definitely money well spent (or as the film's investors would say, 'great value for money'), as the director has created a thrillingly explosive, visceral action-packed spectacle. There are literally non-stop chases, explosions, fist fights and gun battles from the start to the end of the film. These action sequences are simply top notch, whether it is by Hollywood or Asian standard.

The lead actors Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou both give solid performances. They not only carry out many of the daring stunts themselves, but also inject some emotions into the film through its dramatic scenes. The family drama actually turns out to be as interesting as the viral threat, helped by the brilliant support from Liu Kai-chi and Elaine Jin playing the parents. Nic Tse is also quite outstanding, and shows that he has really grown over the years into an incredibly good actor. With the increasing success of his films, those fans who miss his music (admittedly myself included - Nic has pretty much put his music career on hold) may sadly have to wait even longer to see and hear the talented musician perform again.

THE VIRAL FACTOR is not without flaws, however. There are plot holes as well as unlikely plotlines. Also, the motives of the villain Sean (played by Andy On) behind all these crimes are unclear, as he certainly comes across a lot more menacing, dangerous, intelligent and skilled than the man he calls boss. One does not get a lot of time to think through these things though, as the film moves forward with such a breakneck pace and the action scenes will certainly keep your mind occupied.

With THE VIRAL FACTOR, Dante Lam has added yet another awesome film to his already fantastic filmography, and it is a pleasure to see the way he handles a big budget blockbuster. His globetrotting adventure is epic in scale and impresses at multiple levels, and is certainly one of the best action movies of recent years to come from the once thriving Hong Kong film industry. Here's hoping it can bounce back into form like the Taiwanese film industry has in the past few years; and with directors like Dante Lam and works like THE VIRAL FACTOR, there is certainly a lot of hope on the horizon.


THE VIRAL FACTOR is distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Dream Movie. It is currently showing in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Auckland. 

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Dante LamCandy LeungWai Lun NgJay ChouNicholas TsePeng LinBing BaiActionDramaThriller

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Around the Internet

QinlongJanuary 31, 2012 9:12 AM

I still don't understand the Green Hornet hate.

ChevalierAguilaJanuary 31, 2012 4:00 PM

In Chou's defense, he had no creative input in the Green Hornet film. If there's anything to blame on that one is the direction, the script and the lead actor.

Todd BrownJanuary 31, 2012 5:44 PM

Chou's the best thing in The Green Hornet, I'd say, with Christoph Waltz a step behind.

shinhyeonFebruary 1, 2012 12:41 AM

Oh and next time you write a review about a film starring Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou , You should talk about the TSE first hes better and demands his proper recognition. TSEFANSINCE'99 ! ! !

Hugo OzmanFebruary 1, 2012 1:55 AM

Agree, and I think Jay Chou is even better in The Viral Factor than he is in The Green Hornet.

Hugo OzmanFebruary 1, 2012 1:59 AM

Yes, Sir! I'll do so for The Viral Factor 2. By the way, I do like Nic a little more than Jay.

QinlongFebruary 1, 2012 7:07 AM

And I prefer Andy On, who seems stuck to second-billing

JohnFebruary 2, 2012 3:55 AM

Here's the trailer...

Hugo OzmanFebruary 2, 2012 5:05 AM

Yeah, he is good in the movie too, and it's a shame his character is so 2-dimensional.

koay.allanFebruary 2, 2012 9:31 AM

sorry, Hugo. totally disagree. the script is worse than terrible, the action sequences unbearably overblown and incoherent, especially the night scene where Jay escaped from the hospital, and when you can't tell who's fighting who, you stop caring.


dont tell me you didn't notice this - Jay's character just happens to be on the same plane as the doc who's researching the virus. then he happens to see a different driver in her minivan and get embroiled in the whole affair. then he just happens to run into his long-lost dad on the streets of Malaysia. then the bad guy just happens to be his long-lost brother. and then ... this is the best one yet ... he just happens to be having a coffee or something right outside the ACDC where Nicholas Tse and gang are stealing the virus!

coincidences and deus ex machina can be tolerated if they really really work in the story, but that many coincidences make the script lazy and bad. and there's nothing unique about Dante Lam's direction either. HK action flicks have always been unique and in a style of their own, but Lam here merely apes the Hollywood shaky cam, fast-cut and zoom style. and that's not even a good aspect of Hollywood movies to copy.

Peter K.February 2, 2012 10:07 AM

"Be it my mask or your blood, red will be the last thing you see" still has me giggling. I caught the film at the tail end of the year and kind of think its really great. Would have loved to see Stephen Chow's take on it, but tonally it really feels like 90s Stephen Chow flick at times. Rogen's Hornet really has the arrogance and ineptitude of one of the stock Chow characters that eventually becomes an alright guy.

I've heard Viral is fun, but surprised that this review is so revelatory about it. Its definitely on my radar.

Hugo OzmanFebruary 2, 2012 2:02 PM

Thank you, koay.allan. When I discussed the flaws of the film, I did mention that 'there are plot holes as well as unlikely plotlines.' I didn't really go into it much so I could keep my review spoiler-free (which I try to do in all of my reviews). I'd agree that the script does contain 'a series of coincidences', but was able to accept that because I really enjoyed both the human drama and the action a lot. Of course I like some of the action scenes more than others. For example, I think the chase scenes (like the one at the train station) are particularly tense and thrilling. Those fight scenes that require fast editing are my least favorite. At the same time, I see the fast cuts as the filmmakers' way of overcoming the fact that Nic Tse and Jay Chou are not as strong at fighting as Andy On for example. (In fact, as an aside, I think the upcoming THE GRANDMASTERS that stars Tony Leung may also rely heavily on this technique.) And I know what you're saying about HK action films having a unique style, but sadly the newer films in general are losing much of that uniqueness as the filmmakers start to eye much bigger markets than HK itself, i.e. China and overseas. I think as a first attempt to go international, Dante Lam has done really well. Afterall, THE VIRAL FACTOR has a much much bigger scale than his previous films like BEAST STALKERS and STOOL PIGEON, and I can feel a real sense of confidence in his handling of the film. Finally, I actually think Lam's greatest strength as a director is his ability to weave drama, usually about damaged characters, into action films.

Hugo OzmanFebruary 2, 2012 2:41 PM

Thanks, Peter. Yes, THE VIRAL FACTOR is fun. It's also big and loud. It is definitely not without flaws, but if you don't mind a bit of silliness, I think you'll enjoy it a lot. Also, having seen a few of the director's previous films, I find it really interesting to see how he handles this big-budget production.

koay.allanFebruary 2, 2012 10:11 PM

for me, if the story doesn't hold up at all, then everything else falls apart. even in say, Ong-Bak, where the story is merely an excuse for the action scenes, the story still held up even though it's simple-minded. but for Viral Factor, the things that happen are so implausible, i just lost interest. and as we all know, story is the most important, the core, the basis for everything else in a film. as for the action, it was so overblown, i found it even worse than Michael Bay's. good action scenes are graceful, stylish and engaging, they don't pummel your brain, shake it up and throw it in a blender, which is what Dante Lam - and contemporary Hollywood - does. i really seriously want my money back. 8, 2012 7:07 AM

Can't say I hated it but i was disappointed, especially because Stool Pigeon was a really great surprise (thanks to Twitch), but this reliance on coincidence, and ties between cops and robbers, is getting a bit old after only the fourth Lam ive seen.