Most remakes are done without vision or at the very least done without anything interesting to say. But every now and then, we get a film remake that turns its characters on their heads creating a piece of work that makes you question the original. Zhang Yimou’s A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is one of these films. What Zhang Yimou does with Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1984 classic, Blood Simple, is simply intriguing and clever. Not only in an introspective manner but in a visual manner as well.
The premise of A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is practically identical to Blood Simple. A noodle shop owner, Wang, suspects his wife of cheating. He employs a local police captain to kill both his wife and lover. Some confusion between the parties is incidental but what is really interesting are the characters of this film. What Zhang Yimou does is change the demeanor of each character.
Instead of heroic and confident, Zhang Yimou makes the lover counterpart, Li, meek and cowardly. The police captain hired to kill the couple is no longer oafish and loud, in this version he is cold and calculating. This brings a whole new and exciting dynamic to the film and story. The reactions of the characters are important but all driven by the same end, their greed. Instead of changing the theme, A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is not a remake but rather a counterpart or extension of the themes introduced by the originators. It says something about the nature of being human, we are all jealous and we are all greedy. These themes hold to Blood Simple as well as A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop.
Visually, the film is a delight. Full of playful and lush colors, that pop on the screen and adds an element to the storytelling that is invaluable. This film is a minimalist thriller that depends of the visual poetry and excellent sound design to build tension for its characters. The film is set in a small desert town in China, Zhang Yimou creates a sense of isolation which makes an audience feel like certain crimes can be made and covered up with ease. This too is very consistant with the Coen’s work.
A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop hits every mark of its predecessor, Blood Simple. Matching the story and tension created by the Coen Brothers and turning its characters on their heads, this film is a prime example of how remakes and be visually and thematically interesting but holding true to the source material. This is a rare kind of picture in an age of remakes, reboots and sequels, not making an audience groan but rather inspire a great discussion of their filmmakers and their intentions. A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is as exciting and suspenseful as the original and is absolutely worth seeing. A classic tale of greed, jealous and murder is as timeless as human beings themselves.