A good screwball comedy from an unexpected director!
The owner of a Chinese noodle shop’s scheme to murder his adulterous wife and her lover goes awry. A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (Blood Simple in the UK) is a 2009 film directed by Zhang Yi-mou. It is a remake of Blood Simple, the 1984 debut of the Coen brothers, whose films Zhang Yi-mou lists as among his favourites. The film transports the original film’s plot from a town in Texas to a noodle shop in a small desert town in Gansu province. The film is a mixture of a thriller and screwball comedy. The film stars Sun Honglei, Ni Dahong in the thriller segment while comedians Xiao Shen-yang and Yan Ni star in the comedic segment.
Native and/or alternative titles: 三枪拍案惊奇; 三槍拍案驚奇; Sānqiāng Pāi’àn Jīngqí; A Simple Noodle Story, Blood Simple
Languages: Mandarin, English
Genre: Comedy, Suspense, Thriller
Director: Zhang Yi-mou
Writer: Shi Jianquan, Xue Jianchao
Cast: Sun Honglei, Ni Dahong, Xiaoshenyang, Yan Ni
Although this movie is based on the Coen Brothers’ film, ‘Blood Simple’, I have not yet had the privilege to see it. So, I will not be able to compare the two films even if I wanted to. But, I believe that this way, I will be able to remove the ‘judging a remake’ factor and simply make observations based solely on this film alone. Therefore, to clarify once again, this review is not written in the shadow of the original film ‘Blood Simple’.
‘A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop’ is a noir thriller with its fill of screwball comedy… in other words simply erratic!! Given its genre, at first, I found it hard to believe it was directed one of my beloved Zhang Yi-mou (Hero; House of Flying Daggers; The Road Home; etc.) who is known for making classy art-house films with subtle humanistic perceptions and the occasional martial arts sequences. This film is a bit different though, obviously. The presentation and theme were entirely unexpected for me; however, you can still notice Zhang yi-mou’s style and persona reflected here as well. He had yet again proved his brilliance by showing that he can make successful films out of his comfort zone as well.
Despite having some eccentric comedy, this film also has its fair share of tragic moments, quite depressing and dark. The movie starts with a light funny tone and later becomes very murderous and crazy. But it was an amazing crazy chaos!!! However, like I mentioned earlier, Zhang Yi-mou’s human touch is still present behind all this absurdity. Human nature is portrayed in a subtle way but with classy finesse. There are many scenes where for long waits go by without the utterance of a single word and these scenes only add to the thrill of the movie. The suspense and thrills are quite intense and exactly perfect for a crime thriller.
Also, there is some symbolism also in this film which I actually didn’t notice until I read a review by a Chinese viewer. These symbolisms are hard for a person unfamiliar with the Chinese culture to notice or understand. Here are a few of them:
- Please pay attention to the bell over the cash-box, which was touched twice by the killer and counter-jumper. Both of them were dead at the end. (The bell reminds me of the novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’)
- Some people said they could not understand why the killer used an arrow and not a falchion to kill Li Si. For this, all I can say is that there is a Chinese proverb which goes,
It is easy to dodge a gun thrust in the open, but difficult to guard against an arrow shot from hiding.
- “15 Guan” which was not simply a figure that the killer quoted, but I was also to honour a Chinese traditional opera “15 Guan”, which is a miserable tragedy.
- In China, green can also symbolise adultery so in the movie the adulterous wife is seen wearing a green dress and also a green hat on a man symbolises that his wife his cheating (and the husband wore a green hat)
- Dark blue is often associated with death and so the detective is always in a dark blue outfit (pointing him as a harbinger of death)
- The pink symbolises feminine qualities (though this seems to have been adopted from the west) so the woman’s feminine lover in the movie is always seen in pink.
The casting is excellent as well. While watching the film, I was only familiar with Sun Honglei. He is, as usual, good but the most brilliant performance is by Yan Ni. Her character was very complicated and she was very natural in her role.
Yet again, Zhang Yi-mou used striking colours to enhance the movie experience. There are a lot of scenes of vivid blue skies and orange land. The Cinematography and action sequences were beautiful. Also, the saturated colours of the character’s clothing were a beautiful element. I especially loved the green dress of the main actress.
Overall, ‘A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop’ is not on par with Zhang Yi-mou’s other works and definitely far from being a masterpiece. Maybe ‘Blood Simple’ is much better than this but in my opinion, this remake is also a very nice film on its own, not memorable like some of his more acclaimed works, but a great experience for a one time watch. It will surely be a fun ride!
Maybe ‘Blood Simple’ is much better than this but in my opinion, this remake is also a very nice film on its own, not memorable like some of his more acclaimed works, but a great experience for a one time watch. It will surely be a fun ride!
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