Dante Lam’s big budget action film: bigger & louder! Better than usual?
Two brothers find themselves involved in a dangerous traffic…
The Viral Factor is what you get when director Dante Lam has a budget of 18M$. The opportunity to create an experience supposed to be visually astonishing, that totally ignores the very idea of subtlety.
Instead of using once again the streets of Hong Kong, the film is moving somewhere else. It opens in the Middle-East, with an explosive introduction, then, goes to Malaysia for the rest of the story. Ready to rock the streets of Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of the country. How about a semi-chaotic foreign scenery as a change of air!
Dante Lam is not the most subtle director in the world. This project allows him to be as heavy-handed as possible. Yet, he’s still being too serious for its own good. He always have the ambition to tell a serious, moving drama. With the lead actors trying to act so deeply concerned – Jay Chou & Nicholas Tse, the latter one will even have his “crying moments”…
The director’s attention is focused on this drama, which is all about this broken family, the different destinies, the dream of being together again after 2 decades of separation. But it quickly appears that the traffic story & the spectacular action scenes are basically just pretext for this loud drama.
Keeping in mind that the traffic plot is made of clichés, with mean bad guys, a nice doctor, a girl to save, a really mean traitor… It’s more of a functional & dull plot poorly executed. In other words, as a consequence, the film slowly loses interest.
IS IT BETTER?
Besides the multilingual casting – with people speaking Cantonese, Mandarin, Malaysian, English… – the film proves to be quite generous in terms of action scenes, with lots of different chase scenes – cars, choppers (!), on foot – with also some gun shooting scenes… hopefully, most of the time when a lead character is hit by a bullet, you discover that he was miraculously wearing a bulletproof vest. Another convenient hole in the story?
But with no story to back it up, the action looks more like an attempt to show off, failing to become thrilling or interesting. Of course, there are explosions everywhere on screen, it’s visually amazing, with cameras covering different angles & using some editing/zoom effects.
Yet, it’s not involving. Mostly because characters are hollow & uninteresting. Jay Chou can look concerned, watching something through a window while asking deep questions, it does not make him interesting. Even though, on the paper, it’s a real tragic character – the guy is dying, losing everything, and rediscover himself.
The Viral Factor is a tear jerker family drama, wrapped up in a flimsy overlong action/thriller plot. With a heavy-handed director forgetting the main point: to tell a proper story — 3.5/10.