Dante Lam’s Viral Factor
(trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York and San Francisco.
The spectacular opening action sequence shows exactly how Wan became a dead man walking. He is part of an ambushed convoy escorting a mercenary germ warfare scientist looking to cut a deal. It was not the rpg’s that got him, but a traitor in his ranks. Unfortunately, the doctor of death and his new smallpox strain were lost to their attackers. Tragically, Wan has several more personal scores to settle with Sean the turncoat (and exposition mouthpiece). However, a brief visit to his ailing mother sends Wan on a detour to Malaysia. It seems he has long lost father and brother there, scratching out a meager living through dubious means.
Somewhat like last year’s Legend of the Fist, Viral feels a bit unbalanced, because its most ambitious action sequence comes right up front. Of course, that also means viewers do not have to wait for it. Wisely shunning shaky cams, Lam’s action scenes have a refreshing precision and clarity, despite the frequent explosions and whizzing projectiles, so viewers can appreciate the mayhem. Jay (The Green Hornet and True Legend) Chou and Nicolas (Shaolin and Bodyguards and Assassins) Tse have all kinds of action cred, but also handle the familial drama well enough, as Jon and Yang, respectively.
While marinated in testosterone and lacking a conventional romantic subplot, Viral also features two strong female characters. Though she appears all too briefly, Bai Bing shows considerable screen presence and action chops as Wan’s former fiancé and fellow agent, Ice. In a somewhat more traditional damsel-in-distress role, Lin Peng at least brings a sense of intelligence and resiliency to Dr. Kan. Young Crystal Lee is also quite poised and endearing as Yang’s responsible daughter, Champ.
China Lion Entertainment.