Dr Wai in “The Scripture with No Words”

There is no doubt that this film was an attempt to do something big and different. A great cast of Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Charlie Yeung and Takeshi Kaneshiro were put together, some fabulous sets constructed and definitely a few bucks thrown at this. But it never comes together in a coherent manner and it never really connects at all on any emotional level with the viewer. It has some brilliant parts, but the script leaves the viewer so unconcerned with the characters that these parts lose any dramatic tension what so ever. Basically, you are left with some good special effects and a few good action set pieces, but if there is no emotional investment from the viewer – what does it really matter.

These problems stem from the basic premise of the story. Jet Li is a pulp serial writer who is undergoing writer’s block. The main reason for this being that his wife Rosamund Kwan is filing for divorce and it is breaking his heart. So his two assistants - Charlie Yeung and Takeshi Kaneshiro – help him out and all three take various cracks at writing the next installment. Everyone has there own agenda though and wants to integrate themselves into it - thus causing the story to go off in all directions. 

Takeshi Kaneshiro and Charlie Yeung
The protagonist of his stories is a fellow called “Dr Wai, the King of Adventurers” and he is basically a graduate of the Indiana Jones school of film heros. The story stitched together takes place in the 1930’s and the King of Adventurers and the Japanese are both after a box with immense destructive powers (think Kiss Me Deadly). There are some excellent action sequences as the King battles ninjas, sumo wrestlers and other evils. The film goes back and forth between the life of the writer and the characters in the book. The same actors show up in both strains of the story. Of the ninety-minute running time, probably 70 of it is devoted to the fantasy story. The problem is that neither story has any heart. We never get to know the “real” characters well enough to care about them and the fantasy story is so tongue in cheek, so disjointed and is one extra level removed from reality. How can you care about characters in a book within a movie? To some degree the fantasy story is used to resolve the problems of the people in the "real" life section, but that "happy ending" was much too simplistic to believe.
Rosamund Kwan
I would still rent this if you can. It has some good wire/special effect action scenes and definite ambitions but at the end of the day that is about it. It’s a shame really because if they had just dropped the writer part of the film and made the fantasy the guts of the movie and then done it with a little care this could have been a hell of a film.
 

My rating for this film: 6.0