Chinese ‘Blood Simple’ Remake Delivers Laughs

Vanessa Duffy

He was being buried alive, and the audience laughs when he tries to shoot the man in the hot pink shirt seven times. Director Zhang Yimou is renowned for his work with “Hero” (2002) and “House of Flying Daggers” (2004). His interpretation of “Blood Simple” (1984), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is reinvented through “A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop” with a slapstick tone that offsets the melodramatic tale of infidelity.

For some reason, Yimou chooses to outfit the characters in costumes befitting a Chinese New Year’s celebration. This only serves to emphasize the characters’ quirky roles. The actors were colorful and overdramatized, but just the right amount to bring humor to the film.

The villain Wang (Sun Hunglei), who owns the noodle shop, also owns the employees and even his wife (Yan Ni). Apparently the noodle shop is the source of his wealth.

It’s a wonder as to how this is possible since there weren’t any towns in what seems like a 10 mile radius.

Wang abuses his wife daily then plans to have her killed after he finds out that she is having an affair with his apprentice, Li (Xiao Shenyang).

Li, the perceived protagonist, is a bumbling coward who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, then buries a body that shouldn’t have been buried. In defense of his stupidity, he did it for love. However, the poker-faced antagonist, a police officer (Sun Hungle), is out to cover his bloody trail by murdering Li and Wangs wife. He is meticulously detail oriented and criminally organized, but gives into green envy and repeatedly attempts to steal Wang’s riches.

Wang’s wife, “the damsel in distress,” isn’t the kind of woman who waits for her cowardly lover to save her. She is loud and outspoken about her motives and dominates all the other characters. She buys a gun from some Persian arms dealers with the intent of ending her husband’s 10 year streak of abuse, whether it means killing him or herself.

With not much architecture to work with, the director of photography, Xiaoding Zhao, manages to transforms the ordinary setting of an uninhabited desert into a gorgeous work of cinematography. When it was night he cut away to the brightly defined moon in the dark sky. Then he shot the streaming white clouds in the baby blue sky for a new day scene. The waves in the sandy desert mountains seem to move in the shadowed lighting.

Since the audience is in awe of the cinematography and distracted by the ridiculous character outfits, they don’t seem to notice the lack of music. Aside from the sirens of horseback riding police officers, there are hardly any musical scores at all. The film captures quite a bit of attention even without music because every other sound effect emitted from people running, screaming, or shooting is enhanced and tends to build up the level of suspense.

It seems that the writers Jianquan Shi and Jing Shang, intended for the film to be humorous rather than a modern horror. Especially since the films other two characters Zhao (Ye Cheng) and Chen (Mao Mao) were primarily intended to just stumble around and make silly comments.

“A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop” is an unexpected comic delight. “Blood Simple” is a classic thriller, but Yimou’s remake is touched with Chinese influence. He takes life’s simple mistakes and blows them out of proportion, thus creating a humorous chicken without a head effect.

Rating: R for violence, language and adult themes. The running time: 95 minutes. The film is shown in Mandarin with subtitles.