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A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (Blu-ray Review)

29 Jan, 2011 By: Billy Gil

Street 2/1/11
Sony Pictures
Box Office $0.2 million
$28.95 DVD, $38.96 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for some violence.
In Chinese with English subtitles.
Stars Ni Dahong, Yan Ni, Xiao Shenyang, Sun Honglei.

Remakes are a tough call. Either filmmakers tend to do it shot-by-shot (Psycho) and get into trouble, or they stray so far from the original (The Wicker Man), the spirit is lost.

But, seeing as how the Coen Brothers are enjoying a successful remake of their own at the moment (Oscar nominee True Grit), perhaps it’s time for one of their films — their debut Blood Simple, no less — to get the remake treatment.

Zhang Yimou brings the same combination of action and feeling he brought to such films as House of Flying Daggers to A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, which resets to feudal China the Coens’ tale of a husband who hires a man to kill his wife and supposed lover. Yan Ni is a brilliant combination of haplessness and protofeminism as the noodle shop owner’s wife who buys a gun — in this setting, unheard of — from a wandering Persian salesman, in hopes of standing up to her cruel husband, setting off a chain of Shakespearean misunderstandings that are both harsh and humorous. The film loses a bit of steam and suspense in its second half and could have used a bit more action — the best instance of it comes with the shop’s employees spinning noodle dough like acrobats in a dizzyingly good scene — but Ni’s face-off with Sun Honglei’s coldhearted assassin gets the film back on track in a strangely unique mix of farce, martial arts and film noir that should appeal to a broad swath of film fan.

The disc’s making-of featurettes are mostly typical. With a smaller release such as this, you don’t get the side-by-side comparisons with Blood Simple that you’d hope for.

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