Home > Film > The Viral Factor or Jik zin (2012)

The Viral Factor or Jik zin (2012)

Well, I happily sat down to watch this during the Chinese Lunar New Year so, in the necessary spirit of the times, The Viral Factor or Jik zin (2012) was a firecracker of a film. For those of you not familiar with the science behind firecrackers, you should know the manufacturers take a cardboard tube and tightly pack it with gunpowder to ensure the whole thing explodes with the maximum violence and noise. This is not the same as fireworks which are designed to propel very pretty coloured lights into the sky so we can all oooh and aaah in delight.


So, if you want to see a film with an amazing number of bullets, RPGs and fists flying while cars chase, helicopters hover and container ships float, this is the film for you because, as the saying goes, this film has all that stuff in spades. The only thing it lacks is a coherent plot and anything approaching self-discipline on the part of the director. Sadly, once Dante Lam gets the bit between his teeth, an action sequence can just go on and on. Indeed, watching the helicopters feels interminable.

Jay Chou and Elaine Jin enjoying a quiet moment toether


What, then, should the plot be? It can be summed up in a single sentence. A police officer and his brother take on criminals who want to make a fortune out of selling the vaccine after releasing a new smallpox virus. What do we actually have? Well, dog’s breakfast sums it up. We start off in the Lebanon where a team from the International Security Affairs is to escort a captured rogue scientist to a safe location. Frankly, I had no idea who anyone is nor who I should be watching apart from Jay Chou who’s Jon Wan Fei, one of the grunts. There’s a major police operation but, despite everyone’s best efforts, the scientist is taken away and all the team seems to be killed apart from Jay Chou. Fortunately, he’s only been shot in the head so it’s not a serious injury. Now comes the ultimate cliché. The best surgeons available dare not operate to remove the bullet. It’s touching the thingamagummy in his brain and, if it shifts, he’s a gonner. But fear not, Jay Chou fans, he can walk around for about two weeks but then will spontaneously drop dead. So, minutes after being given the good news, he’s on a plane back home. Except, I may have been wrong about everyone else in the team dying. Perhaps the one that shot Jay Chou in the head was a renegade ISA agent. I’ll come back to that. As a final thought, with RPGs blowing up vehicles and bullets spraying indiscriminately, how does the mastermind ensure his scientist is uninjured? Particularly if the mastermind is one of those guarding him. Grenades and bullets are not discriminating.

Nicholas Tse showing his star firepower


Passing quickly on, the emotional hooks have to be planted. We’ve had the dream sequence to start off the film and now Jon’s mother (Elaine Jin) tells him he has a long-lost brother in Malaysia. So, seconds later he’s in another plane — look out for the product placement for the airline but see the adverse message. The plane is inadequately pressurised and the high altitude is pressing the bullet into his thingamagummy. So a friendly doctor (Lin Peng) walks onto the flight-deck (no fear of terrorists on this airline) and they fly a bit lower. See, it’s a caring airline. Tony Fernandez can relax. So by coincidence, this doctor is one of the few people in the world who can manipulate the virus and manufacture the vaccine. From this you will understand the original rogue scientist was killed trying to escape his captors. So the mastermind sends Jon’s brother to kidnap the doctor. You see how the plot just meshes together into one of the most credible ever written. Yes, it’s the good and bad brother tag teaming as Nicholas Tse kidnaps both doctor and head-case at gun point. Not surprisingly, the brothers don’t recognise each other after twenty and more years so they fight and Jay Chou engineers their escape.

Lin Peng and Nicholas Tse


It’s at this point we see the pattern emerge. Jay Chou will be battered around the head with fists, metal bars and any other weapons to hand. He will be in car crashes and fall from heights on to his head but the bullet will not move. He will shake himself, perhaps manage a token stagger, maybe even swallow a quick pill, and then run, jump and fight some more. Nicholas Tse proves equally bulletproof (although towards the end, both brothers do put on some kevlar which soaks up everything fired at them apart from a few token scratches on the shoulders and arms). No sense in them taking unnecessary risks. In due course, the brothers are formally introduced and there’s the missing dad (Kai Chi Liu) and cute daughter. We now have all the elements to mix and match hostages, and for the big emotional ending when we get to see the meaning of the original dream. It’s intended as a real tearjerker. Add in Andy On, Carl Ng (I gave up caring which one was the renegade ISA agent — suffice it to say it doesn’t matter) and Anthony Sandstrom as an international gunrunner, and you have a high-profile international cast to widen the distribution potential for what has been an expensive production. Some of the dialogue is shot in English and some in Malay to run alongside the Cantonese. It’s hilariously ironic the Cantonese need subtitles in a film made by one of their own.

The real star of the film — the virus


On paper, this was a great film. Although I’m mocking the lack of plot, both Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse come out of it quite well. They are not required to show a great emotional range but they smile and snarl on command, and both look good as action heroes. Taken individually, the action scenes are of a high standard. They do go on too long but they look good. Kuala Lumpur also looks good and much less stagey than in other films (only a brief glimpse of the Petronas Tower). If all this had been put in aid of a coherent plot, it would have been a fabulous way of spending the Lunar New Year. As it was, The Viral Factor or Jik zin was like watching a bomb explode and leave a smoking crater.


Other films by Nicholas Tse:
The Beast Stalker or Ching Yan (2008)
The Bullet Vanishes or Xiao shi de zi dan (2012)
Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)
Treasure Inn or Cai Shen Ke Zhan (2011)


  1. Stanley
    January 26, 2012 at 10:18 am

    This is an honest review.

    This movie has just too much coincidents in all the happenings.
    Jay Chou in the same plane as the lady doctor and both happens to be involved in this vaccine project and then the brother also happens to be involved and they(the brothers) happen to meet day one as soon as Jay arrived in Malaysia.
    The rests of the plot is even more unacceptable; the movie is purely for people who loved action and care nothing for plots and scripts.

    Yet, some regular reviewers in IMDB mention nothing of its flaws, I am surprised.

    • January 26, 2012 at 10:57 am

      Thanks for the praise. I always do my best to be honest. In fact, many of the people who post to IMDB are paid marketers. Their job is to sell the films by reporting only the good features (even if there aren’t any). If anyone is too cruel, they rise up to defend the film. It’s all a game.

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