If you were disappointed the Coen brothers went mainstream with True Grit, there's always A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, a Chinese remake of their first feature film Blood Simple. Unfortunately, the movie is just a little too strange, weird and surprisingly dull for most American audiences.
I had heard good things about A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (San qiang pai an jing qi), which is about an owner of a Chinese noodle shop who hires a rogue policeman to kill his young wife and her lover. I'm not sure where I heard the good things, however, as the comedy-thriller has an uncomfortable 31% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.8 on IMDB.
The average scores sum up the movie quite well. Directed by Yimou Zhang and set in "the old west" of China, the movie begins zany and exaggerated, with eccentric characters and slightly surrealistic sets. Given I was expected something gritty and modern, this wasn't a good start.
The problem with redoing a Coen brothers movie is that it is inevitably going to compared to said movie. It's been a while since I've seen Blood Simple, but A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop lacks that signature blend of dark humor and crazy plot twists that allow Coen brother stories to flourish.
Director Yimou doesn't find that balance with his version, instead opting for an off-kilter movie that begins light and colorful and then tips into darkness and decay. The second half is better than the first, but by then the audience is more or less lost.
The violence lacks the deliciously over-the-topness the Coens are known for, the characters remarkably unremarkable. The whole picture feels too artificial for its own good, a problem when trying to showcase a bunch of people plotting to kill each other.
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop does have its moments, but the movie is largely uninteresting and a big disappointment.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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