Dr. Wei in the Scripture With No Words (1996)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

[director Ching Siu-Tung]

Jet Li plays a writer in this movie. Being a writer doesn’t exactly allow him to demonstrate his main cinematic attraction, that being incredible agility and acrobatic kung-fu. But luckily, in this movie Jet is a writer who writes adventure stories about Dr. Wei, a man of incredible agility who practices acrobatic kung fu. Needless to say, a lot of Jet’s novel gets put on film in this movie.

Because writer Jet has writer’s block, he still hasn’t finished seven of the eight Dr. Wei books he was supposed to produce by the year’s end. The year is almost up, and Jet still can’t write because he’s too distraught over the degradation of his marriage. When Jet’s assistants start writing the novel for him, the plot takes off. Soon Jet is arguing with them and changing parts of the text to fit his now much bleaker outlook on romance and adventure.

In effect, the world of the novel becomes like clay, constantly being reshaped to fit the different writers’ ideas of how the story should proceed. Actress Rosamund Kwan, Jet’s wife in the publishing world, undergoes tremendous transformations in Jet’s fictional world. When Jet’s assistants are writing, she’s a misunderstood hostage of the evil villains. When Jet writes her, she’s pure evil. And when Rosamund gets her hands on the manuscript in the end, she becomes a partner in Jet’s adventures after a dramatic change of heart.

The concept is extremely witty, even if the film is filled with silly jokes and bizarro special effects. Jet gets some cool action scenes in and many of the scenes are knock-down funny. It’s one of the best films for Jet Li, a performer of only marginal ability who really has gotten lucky with a handful of fantastic productions. This is one of those fantastic productions. For the occasion, Jet is aided by far better performers, from Rosamund Kwan (playing his wife) to Charlie Yoeh and Takeshi Kaneshiro (as his amorous assistants).

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