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_I (1996)
The Scripture with No Words

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 10/21/2020
Summary: Complicated but enjoyable...

Jet Li plays Wai Bok Si, an adventure writer who is going through a contentious divorce with his wife Monica (Rosamund Kwan). Si’s two assistants, played by Takeshi Kaneshiro and Charlie Yeung, try to help him get over his writer’s block and inspire him to finish the story for his overbearing boss (Johnnie Kong). As real-life events take place, the story of the King of Adventurers (Chow Si Kit, also played by Jet Li) plays out and takes twists and turns based on his feelings and experiences. The characters in his story search for and fight over “The Scripture with No Words,” a mysterious and powerful document that can give its owner unstoppable power.

Although an entertaining film, “Scripture with No Words” represents the tail-end of Jet Li’s successful run in Hong Kong cinema. The story is good, but is complicated enough that to really understand what each scene represents, it probably warrants a second viewing. The characterizations and scenes are cleverly put together, but at first pass you may miss a lot of the connections. The action is also a bit wire heavy, which is disappointing when you have someone as skilled as Li as the star. Ngai Sing and Billy Chow add some action prowess as well, but there are a lot of throw-away action scenes that are too far-fetched to be really top-notch. Rosamund Kwan is always enjoyable and plays her multiple characters well.

Enjoyable but not one of Jet Li’s best. This review is based on the theatrical cut of the film. The international edit, which removes the “real-life” plot and adds additional adventure footage shot by Tsui Hark, is difficult to locate. Hopefully I can track down a copy to compare the two versions.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010
Summary: Confusing but very enjoyable

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 06/08/2006
Summary: quite silly, but that's not a bad thing...

well, i watched the hong kong version, which sets the modern tale of a serial writer(jet li), who is suffering from writer's block after being dumped by his wife (the always watchable rosamund kwan). in an attempt to get li's creative juices flowing again, his assistants (pretty boy, takeshi kaneshiro and, the charmingly goofy, charlie yeung) begin to write their own continuation of li's story of 'the king of adventurers'.

what follows is a transposition of li, kaneshiro, yeung and kwan's relationships on to the characters of li's series, mixed in with an adventure story about a 'scripture with no words'. this is basicallly the source of most of the film's humour and, of course, it's action.

all things considered, it's a bit of a mess, but a very watchable mess, with a few spoons of fun, a dash of style and a generous portion of jet li jumping around kicking some arse.

i'm interested to see the international cut, which doesn't have any of the modern day footage, but instead blends addition footage (shot by tsui hark) alongside the 'king of adventurers' footage; is it any good?

good fun, but a bit of a silly mess...

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 06/01/2005
Summary: Lumbering, half-hearted 'epic'


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Anamorphic)
Sound format: Dolby Digital

A huge disappointment from director Ching Siu-tung (DUEL TO THE DEATH, A CHINESE GHOST STORY), this lumbering would-be spectacular - conceived as a light-hearted riff on the Indiana Jones subgenre - finds paperback author Jet Li Lianjie ploughing all of his frustrations from a crumbling marriage to Rosamund Kwan Chi-lam into a work of fiction where his brave alter ego (a 1930's soldier of fortune, also played by Li) seeks a magical scripture and is thwarted at every turn by a villainous seductress (also Kwan) and her evil cohorts. The half-hearted script (by Szeto Cheuk-hon, Sandy Shaw and Lam Wai-lun) lurches from one overblown set-piece to another in search of a worthwhile narrative, combining lackluster comedy and predictable action scenes in a failed attempt at a modern epic. However, the combat sequences - choreographed by Ching himself, aided and abetted by Ma Yuk-sing (CAT AND MOUSE) - are staged with typical cinematic bravado, but the formula is wearing a little thin, and the intrusive comic asides serve only to drain tension from the various confrontations between Good and Evil. Stunningly photographed in an uncredited scope format by veteran cinematographer Tom Lau Moon-tong (DRAGON INN, THE EAST IS RED), the film conjures a vivid period atmosphere, and there's a couple of outstanding set-pieces (including a spectacular train crash; Li's encounter with a couple of Sumo wrestlers [don't ask!]; and the final showdown with villain Billy Chow Bei-lei), though the climactic visual effects are poor by western standards. Li and Kwan, reunited from their successful teaming in the ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA series, are attractive and lively, while Takeshi Kaneshiro (CHUNG KING EXPRESS) and Charlie Yeung Choi-nei (FALLEN ANGELS) are largely wasted in routine supporting roles.

Plagued by budgetary problems following a disastrous fire which destroyed $HK10 million worth of sets, producers sought to bolster the film's international fortunes by hiring Tsui Hark to direct additional footage for a re-edited export version which drops the modern day sequences and rearranges the narrative in linear fashion. It doesn't help much, but the filmmakers at least deserve points for trying.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 07/20/2003
Summary: Indiana Jones with 10 times better action

Not only am I a major Jet Li fan (he is my fav actor), but I also dig this type of fantasy adventurer. As I expected, "Dr. Wai" is nothing intelligent, but as far as entertainment, it delivers.

The modern-day stuff is standard local material. I liked it a lot actually, because it was shot just the way I remember 90s HK movies. The period stuff is where the fun comes in. I really enjoyed the fight scenes, even though there wasn't plenty. How often do you witness Rosamund Kwan as an evil mastermind woman?

Takeshi Kaneshiro is pretty cool as usual, but this is not his type of role to steal. He should re-create more of his roles a la Fallen Angels and Returner.


Reviewed by: kurama_tengu
Date: 06/16/2002
Summary: Campy Take-Off....Mixed Results

I can best describe "The Scripture With No Words" as one-part "Raiders of the Lost Ark", one-part "Big Trouble in Little China", and one-part "Murder, She Wrote"....well sort of. What results is a confusing, silly action-comedy that only at times is entertaining.

Jet Li plays an author of a popular series of books surrounding the character "King of Adventurers". With a pending divorce from his wife(Rosemund Kwan), Li gets writer's block and his creativity comes to a halt. With the help of assistants Takeshi Kaneshiro and Charlie Yeung Choi-Nei, they help him to finish his latest adventure.

That is where the simplicity ends. The adventure begins to show a parallel to Li's own personal life. Each character is represented in some way in the written accolades. Kwan is depicted as Japanese villainess set on making life difficult for Li's "King of Adventurers" character.

The movie goes back and forth from reality to pulp with mixed results. The fight scenes are very far-out, but are acceptable because of "King of Adventurers'" hero status. I enjoyed Li's use of many pen-based weapons, echoing the character's occupation as an author.

What should have been done with this feature is to stick with the "King of Adventurers" character and forget about the troubled author storyline. They could have created an Indiana Jones-style series of movies had they chosen to do so. Instead, we get a cheesy mix of storylines that may leave even the greatest of Jet Li fans asking "why?". Recommended only for those great Jet Li fans. [6/10]

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 05/08/2002
Summary: Poor

As the other reviewers said, this is stupid and quite honestly childish. I doubt even Jet Li fans would appriciate this garbage. There are no good points at all I can make about this, so I will leave it at that.

Rating: 1/5

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/12/2002

What a mess of a movie this is (besides having a mouthful of a title). Jet Li is a serial writer who becomes stumped after his girlfriend (Rosamund Kwan) leaves him, so his assistants (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Charlie Yeung) take over for him, weaving some of Jet's life into the Indiana Jones-like story. The result is a big mish-mash. It's almost as if the scriptwriters were like Takeshi and Charlie, making up the story as they went along. Nothing really makes any sense -- it makes a Wong Jing movie look linear by comparison.

Dr. Wai is saved from being a total stinker by the strength of the action sequences done under the direction of Ching Siu-Tung. They may be too wild for some viewers, but they are, in my opinion, inventive and fun to watch -- if a bit overclocked and disjointed in places. Disappointingly, though, Jet seems to have been heavily doubled, which takes out some of the impact of the action bits. On the other hand, it was nice to see Jet playing an almost total opposite of his usual role; he's cocky and a bit of a lech.

Overall, Dr. Wai is worth checking out if you're a major Jet Li fan, but more casual viewers may be put off by the over-the-top nature of the movie.

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/03/2002
Summary: Lunatic fun, and points for ambition

Jet Li is a pulp-fiction writer for a newspaper who has writer's block due to separation from his wife. He finds it impossible to write thrilling stories of the "King Of Adventurers" when his own life feels so bleak. Charlie Yeung & Takeshi Kaneshiro play his colleagues who decide to help him by writing further bits. The movie alternates between the "real world" and the story world, which is constantly being twisted and revised by the conflicting influence of the different people writing sections of it.

The idea for the movie is very clever, with multilayered meanings in both stories that intertwine and develop each other... and yet the overall result is a really stupid movie! But not stupid in a bad way... it's a manic and inventive story with a lot of funny moments. The movie is one of the most ambitious efforts Jet Li has been involved in, and it must have had quite a large budget... crashing a train through a whole town just isn't done cheap... but the finished result feels quite cheap regardless. Perhaps it's just the cinematography, or maybe it's that they didn't have the time or $$ to spend on developing their high-flying ideas as far as they could have done. Mainly I think it's just that director Ching Siu Tung is one of the masters of wild ideas - and credit to him for getting them to work at all - but he isn't much of a 'details' man. He needs somebody else like Tsui Hark to follow up behind him making sure things get due polish & attention, and clearly he didn't have somebody like that in Dr Wai.

Watching Dr Wai it's easy to see why Jet was tempted by Hollywood... at last the budget to really put good production values on his movies. It's a shame that the trade off for that kind of investment is that the wild crazy ideas that make a movie like Dr Wai fun to watch are always dismissed by the money men.

The Mei Ah disc is pretty weak, as usual... nicely widescreen, but subtitles are its biggest weakness. In some ways I prefer the English dubbed "International Version" of the movie to the Cantonese version - the English dubber is not particularly any less conspicuous and inappropriate than the guy who dubbed him in Cantonese, and the script and dialogue are much better expanded and translated in the dubbing. I'd like to see how the HK cut fairs with a good translation - perhaps the movie wouldn't seem quite so stupid after all!

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 08/04/2000
Summary: Not good

I felt like this was like a child's comic when i watched this!! The action is not good in this, looking TOO fake!!
This expects to be the asian version of
'Indiana Jones' or something and i didn't enjoy this movie!! Those expecting a typical action packed
JET LI movie will be disappointed, like me.....


Reviewed by: hktopten
Date: 12/21/1999

An ambitious idea about a down on his luck writer using his surroundings to finish a book. A story within a story, the line of reality and fiction began to blur. An above average film, but the fight scene at the end took too long, slowing down the pace of the film. Jet Li was good as the author and Dr. Wai, Law Kar Ying, Takeshi and Charlie were great, if there were just more of their characters in the film; Is it me or is Rosamund Kwan losing her looks? She isn't as attractive as she used to be as Miss Cammy/the author's wife. It's quite a shame, just as her acting was getting a little better, she is losing her asset (her looks). Sigh.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A light-hearted and buoyant action drama for Lunar New Year. Jet Liplays Chow Si-Kit, a writer burnt-out by the demands of writing 100 chapters of Dr Wai, a serial adventure story where his alter-ego is the hero. His assistants try to help out, inspired by crises and people around Wai. Eventually the characters in "real-life" try to sort out their problems in their "make believe" world. Perhaps this film tries a little too hard to please everybody. Beside the mandatory action scenes, a great deal of money seems to be invested on computer FX. That script is pretty literate for an action movie and there's also much comedy romance elements and Jet Li trying out in a dramatic role. Fans expecting a uncomplicated story with lots of fight perhaps is going to be a bit disappointed. I found the movie quite enjoyable.


[Reviewed by Christopher Fu]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A contemporary novelist writes adventure stories set in 1930s China, whose plot increasingly reflects his own real-life dramas. An interesting premise with much potential, which is unfortunately not realized. Despite a polished script and some engaging fight scenes, the music, cinematography and acting are barely attended to, and the last half descends into the worst conventional schmaltz. The fictional character and title of the film, "Adventure King", could be faithfully translated as "Last Action Hero", and there are more than a few (probably unintentional) similarities on all levels. Particularly, Ching Siu-Tung and John McTiernan are gifted action directors who have made great films, but they seem increasingly bored with the material. This film is most notable as another signpost of increased sophistication in the HK film milieu, a development which is not necessarily for the better.

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Chow Si-Kit aka The King of Adventurers (aka Jet Li) is out of ideas for his serialized newspaper adventures; part of that's because he's being pussy-whipped into a whining pulp by his wife Monica (Rosamund Kwan), who's waving divorce papers around. Thankfully, his two assistants at the paper (Takeshi Kaneshiro, cute Charlie Yeung) -- themselves a bickering pair -- step into the breach. The rest of the movie alternatures between a deadline and the hero's adventures, a widescreen series of cliffhangers that set new records for hyperbolic HK action. Turns out that a magic scripture and its box must be reunited, the romantic travails of fictional characters mirroring real life. With all the plot revisions that happen as the movie-within-a-movie is in progress, giving a plot summary is a thankless task; let's just say that Chow becomes a Chinese Indiana Jones, with machine-gun punches, a piledriving triple-shadow kick, a Tai Chi stance capable of defeating a pair of hulking sumo wrestlers, not to mention his multipurpose fountain pen and martial arts umbrella. I did rather enjoy Li fighting a skull-faced baddie with fire-swords under the Great Wall of China, but most of this is so wild and unbelievable that one loses interest fairly quickly; the one real adventure (Monica getting injured in an elevator shaft), is a snore. Plot twists, pastiche, plot twists, digital effects, action, digital effects, multilevel plots, multicountry adventures, even the runaway train lifted from The Executioners...if you've never seen overkill, this is it. Not only that; that sound dubbing is unusually poor, making what little suspension of belief there is crumble in to sand. It's like the Kung Fu Cult Master on acid.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 5