Jet Li plays Dr. Wai, a professional adventurer/grave robber
who travels around the globe in search of...well, adventure
and graves to rob. He battles Japanese soldiers and other
baddies in 1930s China as they all try to recover the “Scripture
with no Words,” which is housed in a small box that seems
to operate as a miniature Ark of the Covenant. Takeshi Kaneshiro
is his boyish sidekick, and Rosamund Kwan and Charlie Young
are the love interests.
Ching Siu-Tung's adventure flick
sounds promising enough, except the real drama is not Dr.
Wai's. Instead, it's his creator's, a serial author (Jet Li)
whose mundane life of divorce (to a wife also played by Rosamund
Kwan) and office politics spurs most of the plot twists that
Dr. Wai faces. Something bad happen in real life? The offender
gets written in as a bad guy. Takeshi Kaneshiro is not only
Dr. Wai's sidekick, but the author's assistant in real life.
Kaneshiro even takes a turn at writing Dr. Wai's adventures,
as does Charlie Young as one of the office girls. The results
are as you'd expect: plot twists all depend on who's writing
the story, and Kwan's fictional counterpart is alternately
good or evil depending on who's writing her at the moment.
The plot makes for lots of wacky
throwaway gags, including the sight of Li and Kaneshiro in
drag. As a Hong Kong comedy, the film is neither special or
noteworthy. Ching Siu-Tung reserves his best stuff for the
action, which possesses the energy and balletic grace that
you've come to expect from Ching Siu-Tung. You just to have
to deal with the silly stuff, which is usually not what Western
fans of Li come to expect from his movies. Asking the audience
to care about Jet Li's marital issues or publication deadlines
is a stretch. Those who enjoy narrative cleverness will probably
get a kick out of this one, but those wanting the straight
up fisticuffs of Fist of Legend will probably be disappointed.