The Viral Factor (逆戰)
Dante Lam’s (林超賢), biggest and most expensive film to date, The Viral Factor sets out to shock and awe audiences over the Lunar New Year holiday season. It goes without saying that the plot of this action thriller, with its estranged brothers, one a cop, one a criminal, potentially world destroying biological weapons, beautiful women and innocent children used as pawns in a savage game of underworld betrayal and revenge, is utterly absurd. But with Jay Chou (周杰倫) and Nicolas Tse (謝霆鋒) as the brothers, this really doesn’t matter. Lam has put together a veteran stunt team, and the action sequences are some of the best to come out of Hong Kong in recent years. Tse is a veteran of this kind of film, and Chou does some of his best acting as a super cop with a bullet lodged in his brain. Much of the action takes place in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, providing a mix of the city’s gleaming new developments and its grittier backstreets that sets of the action off against an exotic Southeast Asian background.
Steven Soderbergh is a director equally at home with serious and silly, gritty and glossy material. Haywire, an action flick that is not intended to make too many demands on audience intellect, is closer to the silly, glossy end of the spectrum, but as you can imagine from the man who made Ocean’s Eleven, Soderbergh maintains a powerful presence even when he is being playful. The film features a female action lead who is not Angelina Jolie, which in itself puts Soderbergh on the side of the angels. Gina Carano is perfectly fine as a black ops super soldier who discovers she has been betrayed by those she trusted most, and manages to hold her own against the A-list supporting cast that includes Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Ewan McGregor, along with rising star Channing Tatum. Haywire might play out by the numbers, but there are plenty of goodies to make things interesting along the way.
Perfect Two (新天生一對)
A high-profile local release from director Chu Yen-ping (朱延平), Perfect Two is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name that starred then child star Wen Chao-yu (溫兆宇). This new version stars his son Benny Wen (溫玄燁, aka 小小彬), who is emerging as a major screen presence though only seven years old. A story about a former racing driver (Vic Chou, 周渝民) who has fallen on hard times and unexpectedly gets landed with a son from his estranged wife. The child shines a new light into the man’s life and helps ignite real love with a neighbor (played by girl band S.H.E’s Ella, 陳嘉樺), who has been helping him out for many years. The feel-good movie has plenty of familiar faces, a plot that writes itself and a veteran director who looks set to cheer the hearts of supporters of local cinema over the holidays.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Anvil! The Story of Anvil has already established a place as a cult favorite since it was released back in 2008, and while its arrival in Taiwan is welcome, it is also bewildering why it took so long. Unlike another rock music classic, 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap, Anvil! is a documentary about a real band, though at times this might not be apparent, as its story of small successes and catastrophic, though often very funny failures, seems so utterly improbable. The film follows the career of two aging rockers from Toronto who continue to remain optimistic about one day achieving heavy metal stardom that has eluded them for more than 30 years. Inspirational and hugely amusing.