In 2009, Zhang Yimou’s recent filmography included such movies as the Oscar-nominated historical adventure Hero and House of Flying Daggers, both nominated for Oscars. Steve Fore had some smart and pointed critiques of Hero in the comments thread. He noted that his early-90s films were Zhang at his peak, but after that, he seemed to succumb to the desire to please the Chinese leaders. He wrote, “House of Flying Daggers, is Hero lite, a deliberately ‘entertainment’-oriented martial arts action movie that all but screams ‘NO POLITICS HERE, NO SIRREE BOB.’”
The point is, I’m thinking of Zhang for his epic adventures, but he may have already spilled over to the entertainment side of film making by 2009. Which better explains why he made A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop.
This movie is a remake of the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. He dumps the plot into an earlier century, in China, but it is recognizably Blood Simple. To be honest, I saw the Coens’ movie so long ago I barely remember it, but I’ll take everyone’s word that Zhang is taking off on the American movie.
To be sure, I don’t see what the point is of this remake, but an artist goes where their muse leads them, I guess. The film looks great, as all Zhang’s films do. But I like to have something besides pretty pictures when I watch a movie. A Woman contains a lot of slapstick, which isn’t normally my cup of tea. I never shook the feeling that some of the humor was funnier if you were part of Chinese culture. The actors who perform most of the slapstick just annoyed me. The twists and turns of the plot didn’t interest me.
The best things I can say about A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop is that it wasn’t made for me, so YMMV. But my mileage says 5/10.