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The Viral Factor (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 31, 2012 by  



“The Viral Factor” is an exciting, pulse-pounding action film from filmmaker Dante Lam and possibly the best acting role that we have seen of both Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou by far. If you love Asian cinema and are looking for a film that not only looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray, don’t hesitate as “The Viral Factor” is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Emperor Motion Picture Limited. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Viral Factor (Jik zin)

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 122 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio), English DTS-HD Master Audio, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian and Latin) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian and Latin)

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

Release Date: August 28, 2012

Directed by Dante Lam

Screenplay and Story by Dante Lam

Screenplay by Wai Lun Ng

Story by Candy Leung

Produced by Candy Leung

Co-Produced by Albert Lee, Solon So, Zhonglei Wang

Executive Producer: Albert Yeung

Co-Executive Producer: Solon So, Zongjun Wang

Music by Peter Kam

Cinematography by Kenny Tse

Edited by Wai Chiu Chung

Production Design by Kwok-wing Chong, Alex Mok

Costume Design by William Fung

Starring:

Jay Chou as Jon

Nicholas Tse as Man yeung

Ling Peng as Rachel

Bing Bai as Ice

Andy On as Sean

Kai Chi Liu as Man Tin

Carl Ng as Ross

Tin Ciu Hung as Mark

Philip Keung as Russell

Elaine Jin as Jon’s Mother

A mission to escort a witness from Jordan to Norway leaves International Security Affairs agent Jon (Jay Chou) severely scarred: a bullet is lodged in his brain, his ex-fiancée and fellow agent is dead, and their traitorous colleague has stolen the secrets of a mutant virus.  While contemplating his future, Jon discovers that his father and brother, long missing from his life, are still alive.  As he searches for them, he discovers his brother is a mercenary for hire and currently working for his former colleague, who has plans to unleash the virus on the world.

As a filmmaker, Dante Lam has had his fair share of hit films in Hong Kong, from “Beast Cops”, Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone”, “Hit Team”, “Runaway” , “Love on the Rocks”  and “Stool Pigeon”.  But in 2011, would work on his most expensive action film to date.

The film “The Viral Factor” would feature two major stars, Nicholas Tse (“Gen-X Cops”, “Shaolin”, “Time and Tide”) and Jay Chou (“The Green Hornet”, “Initial D”, “Curse of the Golden Flower”).  While the film was primarily shot in Malaysia, the film had a high budget which included 20 bodyguards to protect both men but also shot in location in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Jordan and Singapore.

And now “The Viral Factor” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go Entertainment in August 2012.

“The Viral Factor” begins with Jon Man (portrayed by Jay Chou) narrating a story of an image he has of being saved by someone when he was younger in a pool. But doesn’t know who saved him and wants to know who that person was.

The story then begins with the International Defence Commssion (IDC) on a mission in Jordan to protect a scientist who has stolen a copy of a mutated smallpox virus which would be used as a biological weapon.

Led by IDC team leader Sean (portrayed by Andy On), a convoy tries to protect and escort the scientist but while traveling, the convoy is attacked and ambushed.  While Sean tries to protect the scientist, IDC offiers Jon Man, his girlfriend Ice (portrayed by Bai Bing), Ross (portrayed by Carl Ng) and the daughter of the scientist try to escape.

But the team is betrayed when they find out that Sean is actually a rogue agent, who has kidnapped the scientist.  Sean, who is known for his quick shooting skills, fires a shot towards the head of Jon and Ice.  Ice is killed instantly, while Jon is in serious condition.

With emergency surgery, Jon is saved but the bullet is lodged into his brain and is told bad news by his surgeon that the effect of the bullet lodged in his brain, in two weeks, he will eventually become paralyzed .

Knowing that his life will no longer be the same in these last two weeks, he spends his day with his mother (portrayed by Elaine Jin), who is sad because of her son being injured and then tells her son the story of the father and older brother he has not seen in 20 years.  When he was younger, she wanted to leave her husband Man Tin (portrayed by Liu Kai Chi) and take Jon and his older brother Man Yeung, because their father was heavy into gambling.

But Man Yeung refused to leave and so, she left him and her husband and since that day, she has always wondered about them and feels incredibly guilty for leaving.   With Jon’s mother now having health problems and in a wheelchair, she tells him that she has a dream that her husband and her sons would be dying in the sea, one by one.  And the guilt of not seeing them is too much to bare, so she has done an investigation and found where her husband and son are staying.  She wants Jon to bring the to her as she wants to see them again and apologize.

As Jon wants to do her mother this favor before his injury takes the best of him, he heads to Malaysia to find his family.

Meanwhile, we learn that Man Yeung (portrayed by Nicholas Tse) is a wanted felon.  A father of a smart girl named Champ and taking care of his father, he is a notorious thief who has been caught and sentenced to hard time in prison. But Man Yeung is an incredible fighter and manages to escape and allude police.

He is then hired by Sean, the rogue and former IDC leader to kidnap a scientist named Rachel Kan (portrayed by Lin Peng) who has been doing research on the virus that terrorists have been experimenting with.  Sean needs her to not only complete the virus and sell it to terrorist groups but also to develop an antidote.

During a flight to Malaysia, Jon begins having major headaches due to his brain injury and is helped by the Rachel, who is riding on the same airplane as him.  Both become friends and Rachel tells Jon that she can have her friend, a renown neurosurgeon look into his injury.  While driving away from the airport, Man Yeung and his men kidnap Rachel.

While Jon is riding in a taxi, he is shocked to see the former IDC leader, Sean in another vehicle.  Concerned about Rachel, he goes to check on her and he ends up being kidnapped as well.

But Jon being an excellent fighter takes on Man Yeung inside the car and causes the vehicle to crash.  Man Yeung sees a photo from Jon’s wallet of him and his father when they were younger but with police arriving, Man Yeung manages to escape and Jon, manages to save the scientist Rachel.

Meanwhile, when Jon goes to find his father, he finds out that the man he hasn’t seen in 20-years is in major debt (and sees him being beaten by those seeking their money) but also meeting his older brother’s daughter, Champ.  When Champ shows a newspaper clip of her father to Jon, Jon realizes the man he fought earlier was his older brother.

The following day, once again, Man Yeung and many of Sean’s friends including corrupted policeman, are sent to kidnap Rachel.  The men kidnap Rachel and her mother and tell her that they will need the virus in the lab and if she doesn’t get it for them, they will kill her mother.

So, while Man Yeung and Sean’s men are able to kidnap Rachel and the virus, a security guard was able to make the alarm go off and now causing problems for the mission.  So, Sean authorizes the corrupted police to kill Man Yeung.

Seeing that he has been double crossed, Man Yeung takes the virus and tries to steal it as leverage, while trying to escape by train with his father and daughter.

Jon who was to meet with Rachel sees the action taking place and once again, gets into a fight with his brother but telling him that he is his younger brother.  Jon tries to get his brother to turn himself in, but Man Yeung tells him that the police are corrupted and are involved as well.  Seeing this with his own eyes, Jon helps his brother and family escape.

While the corrupted police get police to go after the train, Jon tries to convince his brother to turn himself in and that he is a cop.  But it doesn’t go well with Man Yeung or his father.  His father tells him how righteous his son is, despite being a thief, while Jon tries to argue back that his daughter should not have a father that is a criminal.

But when the corrupted officials manage to get aboard the train, they kill Jon and Man Yeung’s brother in cold blood.  And as leverage of getting the virus back, Sean now has both Champ but also the scientist Rachel Kan and her mother as hostage.

As Man Yeung escapes, Jon is knocked out and captured by police.  Later that day and handcuffed in the hospital, Jon is told by his best friend, former-IDC officer and now Interpol agent, Simon, that because he was with his brother and family, he is guilty by association.

After Simon leaves, Sean gives the corrupted police orders to kill Jon.  And barely escaping, Jon runs into his brother once again but this time, Man Yeung is desperate to find his daughter and asks his brother one last favor, to please help him find his daughter.

Will Jon’s dedication to being an officer of the law lead him to bust his brother for his crimes or will he decide to help his older brother and find his niece, Champ?

VIDEO:

“The Viral Factor” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio).  And I have to say that this is one of the best looking films from Asia that I have seen on Blu-ray.  With a cool look to amazing detail, the clarity of this film is amazing.  Closeups showcase great detail on the faces, may it be skin pores or stubble or the little nicks and cuts that the characters have.  The introduction in the water also looks fantastic.  Great use of color and while the film was meant to look saturated but for the most part, it’s colorful, vibrant at times, sharp and the film looks absolutely fantastic in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Viral Factor” not only looks great but on Blu-ray, this is one heck of an immersive soundtrack.  Presented in Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (as well as Chinese Dolby Digital Stereo, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English Dolby Digital Stereo), there is one thing to know about “The Viral Factor” and that is non-stop action.  Explosions, gunshots galore, helicopters, building and debris falling down to the ground, it’s an intense soundtrack that delivers!  From great use of LFE and the surround channels, while I would have liked to see more directional sound effects, that’s just me being picky.  The dialogue, the music and sound effects are crystal clear and immersive and audiophiles should be happy with the lossess soundtrack. It’s important to note that while the film is presented in Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, there are times where the characters are speaking in English.  So, it’s not completely in Chinese.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“The Viral Factor” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (14:40) The making of the film and shooting in Malaysia.
  • Cast and Crew Interviews – Featuring interviews with director Dante Lam (9:59), actor Nicholas Tse (9:55) and Jay Chou (14:53)
  • TrailerThe original theatrical trailer for “The Viral Factor”.

EXTRAS:

“The Viral Factor” comes with a slipcover case.

Back in 1999, after watching “Gen-X Cops” (Dak ging san yan lui), I hoped that Nicholas Tse would grow up and become a major HK action film star. At the time, he was seen to be the next action star after Jackie Chan.  Young, charismatic and similar to Jackie, headstrong and wanted to do his own stunts.  While Tse, a singer and known for being a bad boy, would continue to make action films and always featured in gossip magazines for his relationships or previous marriage, I felt that he had yet to show his true potential.

For Jay Chou, I also had hopes for this pop star and while he was introduced to the west thanks to his role as Kato in “The Green Hornet”, unfortunately Chou has been featured in films (such as “Kung Fu Dunk” and “The Treasure Hunter”) despite being the main actor, films with kitschy storylines that you can only wish that he gets a significant role in a better written movie.

And then comes filmmaker Dante Lam, who scored a big hit back in 1998 with “Beast Cops” and again in 2000 with “Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone”, he showed that not only can he do Triad films but also action films with 2001’s “Hit Team”.  He had teamed up with Nicholas Tse in quite a few films but it wasn’t until 2011 when he would take on his most challenging and expensive film, “The Viral Factor”.

If Michael Bay is known for blowing things up in the West, Dante Lam will surely develop a new reputation of being an action director who can do the same thing, and show that action films from Hong Kong or China can be significant and exciting.

So, what we have is “The Viral Factor”, a film that not only is one of Dante’s better action films in quite some time, but I also feel that it’s Nicholas Tse’s and Jay Chou’s best acting role yet!  Nicholas is usually not featured in very emotional roles but this one was well-done.  A heartbreaking scene asks for him to give his most emotional performance yet and he pulled it off.  For Jay, while not an emotional role, his role works because he’s not asked to do anything funny or emotional, but to play stoic and conflicted.  So, for both men, this film really brings out the best for both actors.

Yes, “The Viral Factor” is non-stop action and can be called a “popcorn action film”, but it’s one of those films that has you on the edge of its seat.  The action is pulled off with efficacy, and the many location shots in different countries, goes to show that Lam really wanted to bring something exciting and new in Hong Kong cinema.  The fact is not many filmmakers get the opportunity to direct a big budget action film, shot in different countries with such cinematic flair when it comes to visuals and great sound production, but “The Viral Factor” on Blu-ray was an exciting experience.

As a fan of Hong Kong cinema or Asian cinema in general, you just want to see something innovative or studios taking a little risk to show that they can craft a thrilling action film.  And literally create a film that would show that Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou can do better action films that are not kitsch and can be a bit more than typical HK action film banality. “The Viral Factor” distinguishes itself not only through high production value but also through a fascinating plot involving international actors.

While I do credit the film’s action, acting and story, I mentioned earlier that while this film is featured as a Chinese lossless soundtrack, there are English scenes.  Fortunately, the dialogue is limited and if there are long stretches of dialogue, it involves rogue agent Sean Wong (portrayed by Andy On) and he doesn’t come off sounding amateurish, robotic nor does the dialogue seem forced.

Is the film perfect?  As an action film, the film does deliver.  But there is one scene which was a bit off in the pacing, where Jon tends to his older brother’s wounds and when he wakes up, they start talking about the family past and instead of being frantic that something has happened to Man Yeung’s daughter, it would have been good to add a few minutes of dialogue to show him distressed but then leading up to the family conversation between the two brothers.

You also get an ending revolving around family while fitting, is not exactly plausible in terms of circumstances.  I don’t want to spoil the scene but it is fitting, just not plausible.  But I suppose this is a popcorn action film and the ending it works.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality and the lossless audio is amazing.  The visual style is impressive and was pleased that the film was shot outside of Hong Kong and with the different location shots, it made the film much more appealing and enjoyable.  The colors were vibrant and the detail was great on Blu-ray and it helps to have an action film where there is so much action, you get an immersive soundtrack that compliments what you see on screen.  Special features making of and cast interviews, wish there was a bit more but it’s better than nothing.

Overall, “The Viral Factor” is an exciting, pulse-pounding action film from filmmaker Dante Lam and possibly the best acting role that we have seen of both Nicholas Tse and Jay Chou by far. If you love Asian cinema and are looking for a film that not only looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray, don’t hesitate as “The Viral Factor” is definitely recommended!

 






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