Dr Wai & The Scripture With No Words (1996)

Directed by
Lunatic fun, and points for ambition
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-02-03

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 and Takeshi Kaneshiro play his colleagues who decide to help him by writing suggestions for the next installment. The movie alternates between the "real world" and the story world, which is constantly being twisted and revised by the influence of the people writing sections of it.

The idea for the movie is really very clever, with multi-layered interactions in both stories that intertwine and influence each other... and yet the overall result is a really stupid movie! Not necessarily 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 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 a master 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 like Tsui Hark to follow behind him making sure things get due polish & attention - and he clearly didn't have somebody like that on Dr Wai.

Watching this it's easy to see why Jet was tempted by Hollywood... at last, the budget to really develop ideas like this! 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 rarely make it through the Hollywood studio process.

In some ways I prefer the English dubbed "International Version" of the movie to the Cantonese version - the person that dubbed Jet in English is no more conspicuous than the guy who dubbed Jet in Cantonese, and the script and dialogue are much better expanded and translated in the dubbing. The international version is drastically different though - the whole meta framing device of the story being written is removed, with some extra comedy and action to pad it out instead. It's a much less ambitious film as a result, but probably more cohesive.

I'd like to see how the Hong Kong cut fairs with a good subtitle translation though, since the original subtitles are really quite poor - perhaps the movie wouldn't seem quite so stupid after all!


Action Director
Art Director

Also known as

  • The Scripture With No Words
  • Dr. Wai in the Scriptures with No Words