aka Jik zin
Director: Dante Lam
Cast: Jay Chou, Nicholas Tse, Ling Peng, Bing Bai
Well Go USA / Region A / Unrated / 1.85:1 widescreen / Chinese and English Dolby 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo / English subtitles / 122 minutes
Disk Extras: “Making of” featurette / Cast and crew interviews
When most Americans think of Asian action movies, they probably think of filmmaker John Woo. Woo has been directing movies since the 1970s but only got exposure in the U.S. with his violent, ultra-action movies The Killer (1989) and three years later with Hard Boiled. After those two movies changed the face of action flicks, he made a string of very popular and very good adrenaline-pumping popcorn flicks with stars like Jean-Claude Van Damme (Hard Target), John Travolta (Face/Off) and Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible II). Since then other Asian directors like Ronny Yu (Fearless) and James Wong (The One) have gone on to make big action movies and become very familiar to American movie fans. Now I think Chinese filmmaker Dante Lam has taken those reigns with his newest film The Viral Factor and it’s time the people of these United States hear about him.
The very involved plot follows two brothers Jon and Yeung who were separated as children and are now on opposite side of the law; Jon is an agent with the International Security Affairs and Yeung is an assassin and thief. Jon is assigned, along with his fellow agents, to escort a witness with details of a deadly virus to Norway but is intercepted by terrorists who want the secrets in order to make a bio-weapon. After a huge shoot-out, in which one of the agents reveals himself as a traitor, Jon is shot in the head and his team, including his girlfriend, are dead and the terrorists make off with the goods. Jon wakes up in the hospital with a bullet lodged in his head and soon finds out that his long-lost brother is a hired killer for the people who stole the virus. They have also kidnapped a gorgeous doctor in order to make her change the virus from a simple disease to a full-blown bio-chemical weapon which they plan to sell. I won’t spoil all of the twists and turns (of which there are many) but just pay attention because there is a lot going on.
I am very new to the world of Asian action cinema so all I had to go on was my experience with John Woo’s movies, so of course that’s what I compare this to. It’s a slick, big-budget action flick with loads of shoot-outs, martial arts, explosions and car wrecks. It is entertaining as Hell and the 2+ hours seem to fly by. Lam’s direction and Kenny Tse’s camerawork are perfect examples of how to do a high-octane, fast moving film without giving the viewer motion sickness. The story itself gets a little convoluted at one point but Lam brings it back around and wins me over in the end. One huge component that kept the action scenes cohesive and made you care what was happening was both of the lead actors (the brothers) and the sub-plot involving their relationships and family bonds. The leads played by Jay Chou (who played “Kato” in the new Green Hornet remake) and Nicholas Tse (Jackie Chan’s New Police Story) are both awesome action heroes and sentimental, realistic human beings.
All of the action scenes are ridiculous and very entertaining but two very creative ones stick out in my mind. In the initial shoot-out with the terrorists, Jon’s girlfriend gets shot in the head in slow-motion and the visual effects are amazing and flawless. The other is a chase scene like no other I have ever seen. Jon highjacks a helicopter and is chased between the huge skyscrapers of Malaysia coming within what seems like feet of smashing into one Matrix-style. The epic, sweeping score mixed with the explosions, gunfire and random action sounds put my 5.1 surround sound through a workout and it was fucking incredible. I was immersed in the furious commotion. These are the kinds of movies I, and a lot of others, wouldn’t get to see without quality companies like Well Go USA who specialize in Asian cinema. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great and has options for everyone; English or Chinese tracks in either 5.1 Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital Stereo. It also has a 50 minute “making of” and interviews with the cast and crew.