It can be noodles of fun, but this Coen reboot doesn’t always stay at a boil
One thing A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop has going for it is that it comes from Zhang Yimou. He’s the spirited director who gave the world House of Flying Daggers and was also the lead director for the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. That’s the good news for this clever remake of the Coen Brothers’ noir hit Blood Simple, which came out in 1984 and put the filmmaking siblings on the map. The bad news—if you can call it that—is that audiences may walk away from Yimou’s picture disheartened when they really shouldn’t be. Chances are, they’ll compare the two films—too much.
True, Noodle, doesn’t always go down smoothly—it works best when it leans toward being more fun rather than being suspenseful—but it is a clever ride and sometimes a downright kick. Yimou takes the classic tale out of suburban Texas—naturally—and thrusts it in a Chinese setting somewhere in the distant past, where imperial police linger along the countryside and the noodle shop in question mysteriously stays in business with hardly any customers.
Which brings us to the owner of the shop, Wang (Ni Dahong). He’s no good. He abuses his younger wife— a feisty, believable Yan Ni. She’s so fed up, she winds up buying a hand gun from a traveling Persian. Handguns aren’t a staple of the area—swords are the way to go—so the very possession of the pistol sets up the series of humorous and, at times, dire, situations that follow.
Wang believes his wife is cheating on him with one of his employees, a timid guy name Li (Xiao Shenyang)—perhaps too timid because it’s hard to believe this fierce woman would embrace the fella, but hey, it’s the middle of nowhere … what’s a gal to do? Wang hires a police officer (Sun Hunglei) to kill his wife and her “lover,” but the officer isn’t that noble either. In fact, his misdeeds set off a series of events that send the last part of the film spinning—sometimes a bit too loosely. There’s blood and more blood—but not enough noodles in the shop, if you get what I mean.
Watch for more lunacy to show up in several side characters that offer the director greater opportunity to go slapstick on us. More severe critics would find this grating—too many movies; so much popcorn—but methinks it’s part of the curious charm of this peculiar tale. You may also get a kick out of the cinematography here, too—it’s shot in oversaturated, wide-angle funkiness. This is meant to be a fun romp. It’s hard to really take things too seriously. You just have to simply go along for the ride. (★★1/2)Watch film trailer >>>