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Original Title:
Jik zin

Hong Kong, China 2012


Dante Lam

Jay Chou
Nicholas Tse
Andy On
Lin Peng
Liu Kai-Chi
Elaine Kam
Bai Bing
Crystal Lee
Carl Ng
Philip Keung
Sammy Hung
Deep Ng

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The Viral Factor

Story: A special task force is ordered to bring a scientist and his family to a secure place, in return the scientist would hand over a dangerous new form of a smallpox virus. Jon (Jay Chou) and his team are betrayed by their colleague Sean (Andy On), though. Jon's girlfriend dies in a hail of bullets and he is shot in the head. When Jon wakes up he is told that he has only two weeks left to live because of the bullet in his head. He returns home to his mother (Elaine Kam) who reveals to him that his father is still alive and that he has an older brother. Both of them are in Malaysia and thus Jon sets off right away. His father Man Tin (Liu Kai-Chi) was a gambling-addict back in the day and his brother Man Yeung (Nicholas Tse) is a criminal on the run. The first time Jon meets his brother just happens to be when he kidnaps Dr. Rachel (Lin Peng), who is supposed to complete the deadly smallpox virus since the scientist initially assigned with that task died. Jon now has to make a choice - whose side is he on?

Review: Hollywood blockbuster atmosphere, gigantic explosions, international sets, action nonstop and a little bit of drama, that's how you could describe Dante Lam's newest movie the best. It is really impressive what Lam achieves with his pretty high budget and it's apparent that he really knows how to shoot an epic, fast-paced action film. Unfortunately, he also makes the same mistake as so many of his Hollywood colleagues. With all the money involved and the adrenaline-loaden action the screenplay is completely neglected and is just full of conincidences that make you laugh out in despair. Aside from that there are also some rather shallow characters that, by the overacting of the cast members, are meant to give some insight into their mindsets. It's not much, but it's better than nothing.

As already said on several occasions Dante Lam is a decent action film director who just happens to be overrated as well. His newer movie "The Stool Pigeon" or "Fire of Conscience" are proof of that as well. It's not that Lam has made better movie's in the past, but his "Jiang Hu - The Triad Zone" somehow still seems to be his best work to date. But what exactly is Lam doing wrong? In the case of "The Viral Factor", which thanks to its international flair has all the ingredients to be released worldwide, this is easy to pinpoint. A badly written screenplay full of coincidences and changes of location that are too sudden, making you ask yourself for example why exactly the protagonists are sitting in a helicopter and running from the police in a chasing scene again.

There are action movies that are trying so hard to capture the viewer right away with nonstop action that they completely miss the fact that they also need some emotional involvement of the audience to achieve that. In "The Viral Factor" there is almost no chance for us to get to know the different individuals. Jay Chou ("The Green Hornet") is simply too cold and until now just couldn't convince me as an actor, although it looks different when it comes to his skills behind the camera ("Secret"). Nicholas Tse is supposed to portray an ambivalent character but he simply lacks some color in order to convey this. His overacting may actually be more effective than one would expect, but in the emotional scenes there is only Elaine Kam in her supporting role as the mother plagued by her conscience who can deliver.

Of course the action stands asolutely in the foreground and the not that demanding action fan also will not want to complain about the fact that there is not even a tiny bit of necessity written into the screenplay or just any kind of sense for the enormous chaos and mess that is made on international sets. By what kind of coincidences the characters are linked to one another is something you surely shouldn't waste any thought on, that is if you don't want to get any headache. Why in the end Jon and Man Yeung aren't facing each other as enemies but instead fight alongside each other against the police, and granted also some villains, is questionable. The dramatic showdown is predictable, but nonetheless satisfying in a way.

It doesn't help that it is constantly stressed how tough the brothers are, in the end it's just ridiculous to see the two survive deadly falls and several bullet wounds without them ever being restricted in their movement whatsoever. Nowadays you would expect a bit more realism from the depiction of action heroes. Apparently, that didn't leak through to Dante Lam, yet, who tries - and there is no doubt about that - to conceal the obvious flaws of his script with great action. What speaks in favor of "The Viral Factor" is the high budget, the fantastic locations and nice action that make the film remind us of a Benny Chan flick. But those who prefer a little bit more essence to come with their movies or aren't capable of checking their brains at the door in order to have some fun should look elsewhere.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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