Acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers) pays homage to Joel and Ethan Coen’s noir-tinged debut Blood Simple, shifting from the Western to a Chinese noodle shop in an isolated desert-scape where the owner Wang (Dahong Ni) plots to murder his wife (Ni Yan) and her lover Zhang (Honglei Sun) with assistance from a duplicitous police officer (Xiao Shen-Yang).
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop captures the introduction of guns into a world dominated by swords, but the weapons are simply a means to an end.
The story, in both its Western and Eastern versions, remains a fascinating exploration into the dark side of the human heart. The tides of jealousy, betrayal and murderous intent rise and transform everyone into monsters, repugnant creatures that, once loosed, never revert back to any semblance of good or morality, even in the harsh light of day.
The Coens married noir and their black-comedic sensibilities in a simple stew, but Yimou’s setting adds a more rigid system of honor and duty that elevates the whole affair into an intriguing morality play. It’s a fully realized translation capable of standing solidly on its own rather than the typically shot-for-shot remake that the Hollywood studio system regularly sends down the production line. Grade: A-