Published Sep 23, 2010I wasn't entirely sure what to expect going into A Woman, A Gun & A Noodle Shop, knowing that it was a Chinese remake of the Coen Brothers' 1984 breakout movie, Blood Simple, and that director Zhang Yimou is known for formalist, aesthetically breathtaking exercises in vapid choreography and stylization, such as Hero and The House of Flying Daggers. What could be the context for randomly taking a morally rigid American '80s noir and transporting it to 12th Century Feudal era Asia?
While an answer to this latter question never ostensibly surfaces, the film plays out like a faithful retelling of the source parable of avarice with swords and horses, only with overly cartoonish, buffoonish characters, and a style strangely akin to early Aronofsky or Jeunet.
From the opening moments where a Persian man with an Imperial moustache and pointed beard sells a Western pistol to noodle shop owner Wang (Ni Dahong) and his repressed, wife (Ni Yan), rapid close-up montages and exaggerated mugging by actors in circus garb wax slapstick, the film is, presumably, satire. Although, as the affair with cowardly, squeamish Li (Xiao Shenyang) engages, the wife seeking a divorce and a sinister police detective (Sun Honglei) bring the plot of hired killer and adulterous actions full circle, the tone takes on more of the source noir, leaving the overall feeling murky and confused, at best.
Since the comedy does little more than induce cringing and talk show embarrassment, wordless sequences of formally assembled desert sojourns to bury bodies and night time, courtyard, Secret of My Success shenanigans highlight a film that serves no purpose or appeal beyond car crash curiosity.
Of course, anyone keen on seeing an Asian man with protruding buck teeth, an oseledec hairstyle and an open vest revealing a protruding tummy bumbling around like Maxwell Smart might find this film a thing of rare wonder. (Mongrel Media)