The Viral Factor

Directed by Dante Lam (The Stool Pigeon), the action-thriller revolves around the world’s last two surviving samples of the smallpox virus, one of which is an arm’s length away from being used to develop a biological weapon to unleash of five of the world’s seven continents.

Best known on our shores as Kato to The Green Hornet, Jay Chou stars as Jon, the International Security Affairs agent in charge of preventing disaster. In the exciting, extended prologue fueled by plenty of firepower, he takes a bullet to the head. He lives, but is in constant danger of full paralysis; complicating matters, one of his enemies turns out to be the brother he never knew (Nicholas Tse, The Stool Pigeon), a felon who earlier makes a daring courtroom escape by jumping four floors above ground level.

The proceedings put Jon’s family at grave risk, which is an element I’d like to have seen shaved from the story, but Lam at least makes up for that manipulation by staging one fast-break set piece after another, especially a great chase through a train station, where a microwave comes into play. Neither Chou nor Tse is in danger of becoming the next Jackie Chan or Jet Li, but Chou in particular continues to impress with his confidence and presence.

More Outbreak than Contagion as far as virus-driven movies go, this one wears its big-budget American influences on its sleeve. Like those influences, it’s longer than it needs be, but also louder than your mom would like it to be. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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