Review: A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop DVD

Sony | DIRECTOR: Zhang Yimou | CAST: Ni Dahong, Yan Ni, Xiao Shenyang, Sun Honglei
2/1/11 | PRICE: DVD $28.95, Blu-ray $38.96
19 behind-the-scenes featurettes
R | 95 min. | Foreign language thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s remake of the Coen brothers’ (A Serious Man) debut film, 1985’s noir-drenched, darkly comic thriller Blood Simple, a movie that Yimou has said is one of his favorites.

A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop movie sceneKnown as A Simple Noodle Story in its native China (a title we prefer), Zhang’s Blood Simple adaptation transports the original deliciously seamy story from deep Texas to a nameless valley in feudal China, where some nefarious behavior is going down.

Wang (Ni Dahong), the cunning owner of a noodle shop, learns that his wife (Ni Yan) is having an affair with his employee Li (Xiao Shenyang). Even as Wang’s wife ponders the prospect of doing away with her husband, the cuckolded Wang bribes a roaming patrol officer to kill his wife and her lover. But when passion and profits are on the line, things never work out the way they’re planned…

Fans of Yimou and particularly the Coens will enjoy comparing Blood Simple and A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop, of course, so they can see what Yimou has altered in his version. The biggest difference is the addition of two extra characters — employees of the noodle shop — whose purpose initially is to add a touch of screwball comedy to story. (At one point, they engage in a circus-like, acrobatic noodle-making session.) But as the film moves forward, they play a more important, fateful and violent role.

Overall, both movies are very straight-ahead affairs, offering a sharp balance between formally composed, suspense-derived thrills broken up by comical bits and discomfortingly extended scenes conducted in near silence.

The film’s visuals are up to former cinematographer Yimou’s usual high standards, which have been on display in such boldly colorful period movie’s as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Raise the Red Lantern.

We have to say that we admire that a highly regarded filmmaker is openly paying tribute to one of the films that inspired him in his early days by straight-out remaking it in his own vision. Yimou acknowledges, respects and praises the Coen brothers with A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop, and that’s a helluva lot better than stealing from them outright without any explanations.

The DVD’s bonus package consists of 19 (!) behind-the-scenes production featurettes that seem to have originally been pieces of one feature-length making-of documentary. We’re not sure why they’ve been divided up in this manner — perhaps little pieces seem more appetizing than the whole — but the overall contents are rich and detailed. They are, however, presented in Mandarin with English subtitles, so be prepared for an Asian cinema double-bill if you plan on taking in the feature film and documentary in the same evening.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.