Dr. Wai and the Scripture With No Words | Chicago Reader

Dr. Wai and the Scripture With No Words

To most Hong Kong filmmakers Steven Spielberg is God, and Ching Siu-tung gives glory to him with this clever Indiana Jones rip-off from 1996. Jet Li plays a newspaper pulp-fiction writer who projects his own life into the latest installment of his adventure serial: in response to his marital woes he comes up with a villainess resembling his wife who bedevils the hero, Dr. Wai, in China during World War II. The writer?s two assistants (including Takeshi Kaneshiro of Chungking Express) become sidekicks to Dr. Wai as he tracks down a sacred box that holds unspeakable forces, and of course an assortment of bad guys are after it as well. Ching deftly cuts between the real and the imagined, with each twist in the writer's marital predicament advancing the fantasy. The production design, clearly modeled on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is so lavish that one wonders how the filmmakers financed such an ambitious period epic. Li, Kwan, and Kaneshiro are comic-book dashing in their 40s getups, but Li is no Harrison Ford. All that matters are his martial-arts stunts, many of which are imaginatively acrobatic—though ultimately pointless.

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