The Viral Factor


A dizzying flurry of action, The Viral Factor starts swinging in Jordan where Jay Chou, playing the leader of an “International Security Affairs” task force, loses a new strain of smallpox to Andy Tien’s nefarious soldier of fortune, who plans to hold the world hostage with it. (The studio’s intent of overseas outreach is evident in the exotic locales and awkward English dialogue: “All vaccines from before will be useless. It will cause more fear than AIDS.”) Flying home with a carry-on bullet in his brain from the shoot-out, Chou soon discovers he has weeks to live and a previously unknown super-thief older brother (Nicholas Tse), whom he seeks in Kuala Lumpur, where the majority of the film’s action takes place (and which, used as a filmmaker’s playground, seems to have been rented for the occasion). With broken-family melodrama, one extravagantly endangered child, car and helicopter chases, and both leads seemingly in competition to collect the most gunshot wounds, at one point or another just about everything that can happen in an action movie does happen in The Viral Factor. This does not make it good drama—it’s an overloaded, overwrought, profligate production inclined to hysteria and, in cumulative effect, something like being pelted with scenes until buried alive—but it helps keep it from being boring.