The Viral Factor (2012) – By Duane L. Martin

Kenner Osama Muhammed is a scientist who stole one of the two remaining samples of the small pox virus and then spend nine years working on a way to mutate it into a biological weapon. Now he’s been taken into custody and has agreed to turn over the sample of the virus in exchange for he and his family being transported safely from Jordan to Norway. A team of officers with the IDC (International Defense Commission), is charged with escorting the doctor, his daughter and his granddaughter out of the country. Unfortunately, one of their team, Sean (Andy On) was working for the wrong side, and arranged for the convoy to be ambushed. A lot of the team were killed, as well as the scientist’s daughter. In the confusion, the scientist was kidnapped, and just as they were about to escape, Sean shot a female team member in the head. The bullet passed through her head and then lodged itself in the brain of another officer named Jon (Jay Chou). Jon later wakes up in the hospital and is told that the location of the bullet makes it inoperable, but that also, in about two weeks, the bullet will leave him paralyzed and then ultimately kill him. The plot involves getting the scientist to mutate the virus in such a way as that it can be transmitted by both air and touch. Then, before it’s released, they want him to create both a medicine and a cure. The virus will then be released into various population areas around the world and they will be in a position to make a fortune selling first the medicine, and then later the cure.

After leaving the hospital, Jon returns home to visit his mother one last time, and while he’s there, she admits to him that not only did his father not abandon them, but that he had an older brother as well. She was the one who abandoned his father and took him with her, making the painful decision to leave his brother behind. Upon hearing this news, Jon heads to Malaysia to locate his father and brother, only to find out that his brother is a criminal, but has a daughter named Champ that lives with her grandfather. Jon eventually meets up with his brother however when his brother is forced by some dirty cops to assist them with kidnapping a beautiful and brilliant young biologist who the bad guys want to work on the virus after Muhammed had tried to escape from them and was hit by a car and killed. Now Jon must try to protect both her, and the family he just met, before it’s too late, while at the same time, stopping a plot to spread the virus all over the world, all in less than two weeks, before the bullet in his brain kills him.

I know this is a rather weak and somewhat convoluded synopsis of the film, but the whole thing is very involved, so it’s difficult to get it all into a synopsis without basically telling the entire story. If you want the whole story, just see the film, don’t read about it.

I’ve been reflecting on this film for several days now, because while this is an action film, it’s actually on a much higher level than most action films, for a variety of reasons.

The plot in this film is really well thought out. The plan of spreading the virus so they can make a fortune by selling first the medicine, and then ultimately the cure, is really a brilliant idea, even though it doesn’t take into account that natural mutation might eventually render both their medicine and cure ineffective. Still, while it works, they could become the richest men in the world selling the treatments. The way Jon is led back into the case through his own family in his final two weeks was also a really nice way of getting him re-involved in stopping the plot. I know it seems highly coincidental and incredibly unlikely, but as you’re watching the film, it all comes together pretty naturally and doesn’t feel forced or awkward in the least.

Another great thing about the film is that the characters feel like real people with real problems, emotional issues and personal flaws. Jon’s brother is a criminal, but he really isn’t a bad guy and is mainly doing it to get money to support his daughter. His father has overcome is gambling addiction and is now working as a cook. He lets his granddaughter hold all of their money, because if he had it, it would be too much of a temptation to go back to gambling it all away. He also used to be a cop years earlier, but he lost his job because of his gambling problem.

Then we have the action. The action scenes in this film are extremely well played out, fast, exciting and just all around awesome. Cars speed through traffic and crash, helicopters race through a busy city, gun fights that are fast paced and thrilling, and a real sense of urgency as they try to recover both the kidnapped scientist, Rachel (Ling Peng) and the cure she created for the virus so they can give it to Yeung’s daughter to save her life after she was purposely infected with the virus so they could recover a mutated sample from her.

Every element you could possibly want in a great film is right here. Awesome action, characters you that have depth and that you can really care about, and an intelligent, well written plot, that while it may sound rather incredible, actually works really well. This is one of the best action films I’ve seen in a while, and I have no hesitation in strongly recommending that you check it out.

This great new release from Well Go USA includes a making of featurette as well as cast and crew interviews. It also includes both the original Chinese version with subtitles, and an English dubbed version. I will note however that this film is unusual in that while the majority of the film is in Chinese, there’s actually a lot of English spoken in the film by various characters as well.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can grab the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.