A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop
I’d change sleeping pills if this is what you need to wake up in the morning.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/10/2010
Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Sun Honglei, Xioa Shen-Yang, Yan Ni, Ni Dahong, Zhao Benshan

1985 brought audiences the first Coen brothers film, “Blood Simple”. A dark tale of betrayal, greed and murder, it instantly brought the duo credibility and announced their arrival to the cinematic world. Director Zhang Yimou has always loved the film and finally decided to try his hand at a remake, with an Asian twist.

The same basic plot elements are here so if you’re familiar with the original, you’ll pretty much know where it’s all going … it is a remake after all, so I doubt that’s shocking. However, rather than simply exchanging the bar for a noodle shop and phoning it all in, Yimou also completely changed up the dynamic between the boss and the hired gun, added two ancillary characters and, of course, reset the action in China.

The first thing audiences will notice is the remarkable beauty of the mountain landscape on display. The hills are painted in rich red and chalky white, contrasting wonderfully with the sky and strikingly blue colors of the police force (who use an inventive wind chime-like siren). The entire film is artfully composed and it’s clear Yimou paid close attention to colors and how they complimented the emotional core of the project.

And while all of the actors pull off their roles quite well, one’s enjoyment of the film centers on two factors: being okay with “Blood Simple” being remade in the first place, and whether you’re used to the offbeat comedic touches that accompany serious drama in many Asian films. The first issue is either a deal breaker or it isn’t, but the second presents the biggest potential stumbling block.

One the one hand, I’m used to the quirky balancing act between humor, action and drama. On the other, I prefer when it’s all consistent. The film begins with a blend of all three but as the cards begin to fall, the humor goes with them. It’s almost as if the project was shot in two halves, causing a tonal shift in Yimou’s approach.

Still, while I almost always abhor remakes, I appreciated that Yimou put his own spin on things, staying respectful in many of the key scenes but also unafraid to take his own path in order to get to the same end. Rather than simply updating a film for a new generation, he found a fresh way to present the story. A 3 out of 5, “A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop” is far from perfect but if you’re a fan of the director, the Coen brother’s film and don’t mind seeing it remade in this fashion, it’s worth checking out.