You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dr. Wai in the Scripture with No Words

Dr. Wai/Chowm Si-kit Jet Li Cammy/Monica Rosamund Kwan Yan-yan/Yvonne Charlie Young Wai's student/Shing Takeshi Kaneshiro

Dr. Wai/Chowm Si-kit Jet Li Cammy/Monica Rosamund Kwan Yan-yan/Yvonne Charlie Young Wai’s student/Shing Takeshi Kaneshiro

With: Ngai Sing, Law Kar-ying, Billy Chow.

After a lackluster spell, Hong Kong action maestro Ching Siu-tung bounces back with the Indiana Jones-like “Dr. Wai in the Scripture With No Words,” a Jet Li vehicle that surrounds the wooden player with enough colorful co-stars and cartoon-like adventures to satisfy enthusiasts of the genre. Splashy, big-budget look and gleeful tone should entertain festgoers, with homevideo sales down the line.

Pic exists in two versions, an international one (screened at AFM) which is entirely concerned with our hero’s adventures in ’30s China, and a domestic one which occasionally crosscuts to modern H.K., where the same leads double in contemporary roles. Running time is the same, with extra period footage added to the first to make up the difference.

Li plays archaeologist-cum-novelist Dr. Wai, known as the King of Adventurers (the film’s Chinese title), who’s introed with his dimwitted student (Takeshi Kaneshiro) fighting a lunatic in the desert who has invented a giant death-dealing steamroller. He next accepts an assignment from a Kuomintang general to find the legendary Scripture With No Words, a Tibetan scroll that can foretell the future. The Japanese, who are becoming bellicose toward China, are also after the artifact.

Trail leads to the Japanese embassy in Shanghai, where the duo steal a clue and also meet the beautiful Cammy (Rosamund Kwan), actually the leader of the Japanese team and a ruthless spy who does medical experiments on men in an underground laboratory. They also hook up with two patriotic Chinese (Charlie Young, Law Kar-ying) who have the scroll’s wooden box, a “Kiss Me Deadly” device that is the key to finding the scroll itself. Over-the-top finale is set on the Great Wall.

The humorless Li, whose martial arts skills are woven into the set pieces rather than stand out on their own, is cleverly played off against the femme fatale Kwan, goofy Kaneshiro and spunky ditz Young to consistently entertaining effect, and the set pieces (a train run amok in Shanghai, a plane flight to the Great Wall) have a self-deprecating sense of fun that’s very engaging.

The movie’s Hong Kong version is another matter. The sudden cutaways to the modern story — in which Li is a blocked writer of Wai’s adventures and is also being divorced by his super-bitch wife (Kwan) — seriously hold up the flow at key moments, and the only nice idea (Li pouring his dislike of his wife into the Cammy character, who keeps being modified as the story progresses) is hardly developed. Young and Kaneshiro play office colleagues who carry on writing Wai’s adventures while Li sorts out his head.

In its period look and characters, the film recalls Ching’s 1990 “The Terra-Cotta Warrior,” though with a jokier tone and without the grand romantic sweep of the Zhang Yimou-Gong Li starrer. But there’s plenty going on in the international version of “Wai” to satisfy western fans of such fare. Tech credits are good on the pic. which took a mild HK $ 13.8 million ($ 1.8 million) on local release in the spring.

Popular on Variety

Dr. Wai in the Scripture with No Words


Production: (ZIRAT HA'REZACH) An Eastern Prod. production for Win's Entertainment. (International sales: Win's Entertainment, H.K.) Produced by Charles Heung. Wong Tsing-ping, Executive in charge of production, Chan Lam. Directed by Ching Sin-tung, Screenplay, Sandy Shaw, Roy Szeto, Lam Wai-lun,

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Tom Lau; editor, Mak Tsi-sin, Lam On-yi; music, Frankie Chan; art direction, Jason Mok; costume design, Mok Kwan-kit; sound (Dolby Digital); visual consultant, Hai Chung-man; action directors, Ching, Ma Yuk-sing. Reviewed on Flight SQ 322, Singapore-London, June 22, 1996 (international version), and on videocassette, Aug. 1, 1996 (domestic version). Running time: 90 MIN.

More Film

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content