Hong Kong-based Emperor Motion Pictures (EMP) has announced that its upcoming $25m thriller The Viral Factor will be released in time for Lunar New Year 2012.

Directed by Dante Lam, the film follows the attempts of two brothers who unite to stop a master villain from releasing a fatal strain of mutating virus onto the world.

In a bid to reach a more international audience, the film is shooting in a wide range of locations across the Middle East and South-East Asia, including Jordan and Malaysia.

The cast is headed by Jay Chou, Nicholas Tse, Lin Peng and Bai Bing. Lam and Tse previously worked together on hit thrillers Beast Stalker and The Stool Pigeon.

Lunar New Year is a major holiday in Chinese-speaking territories and a peak box office period both in Hong Kong and mainland China. The holiday falls on January 23 in 2012.

“The interesting point of this story is the choices that men make when they are faced with extreme danger. It’s what makes or breaks a hero. The decision to do the location shooting in the Middle East and South-East Asia is because these regions have the right conditions to give it a realistic, oppressive feel,” said director Dante Lam.

EMP is co-producing with Beijing Universe Starlight Culture Media Co and handling international sales.