Friday, September 3, 2010

Movie with Abe: A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop

A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Released September 3, 2010

Remaking a Coen brothers film (their first, no less) is no easy task. This effort is comparable to transposing “Infernal Affairs,” which was made in Hong Kong, to a Western setting and recreating it as the enormously successful “The Departed.” It takes a talented director and a dedicated team of actors to successfully re-envision an idea in a new filmic climate. It’s rare that American movies are remade in other countries and actually make it back over to the United States, but this one has done just that. The combination of a talented, versatile director, a sharp cast, and a crew committed to stunning visuals and colors works enormously well to create a worthwhile adaptation that stands on its own.

Zhang Yimou has directed a number of films, including “Curse of the Golden Flower,” “House of Flying Daggers,” and “Hero,” that have received international acclaim and had success in the United States. His latest film feels much like his past works, with an important difference: this is a rich examination of a few characters without the backdrop of a legion of soldiers or other populace. A band of police officers arrives from time to time, but their number is no more than a dozen, and therefore this remains an intimate, personal experience. The film’s clever title accounts for a few of the main characters, and also underlines the importance of both the gun and the noodle shop.

“A Woman, A Gun, and a Noodle Shop” centers on a noodle shop owner who hires a corrupt cop to off his cheating wife and the noodle shop employee with whom she has been having an affair. It’s that straightforward premise that, like any Coen brothers movie, quickly takes a leap from the safe and the simple to the terribly troublesome and darkly dangerous. Most of the film takes place at night, when one character or another could well be the only one awake at that time, free to manipulate the world around them as they see fit.

Yimou’s film is built on suspense, and in proper tribute to the Coen brothers, it’s an equally funny and unnerving experience. The comedy stems both from the ridiculousness of the characters themselves and the comic nature of how little each of them actually knows about the events that are transpiring. The audience only has a bit more information, and it’s that discrepancy that makes this a frantically engaging and compelling experience. There’s little true intelligence to be found in this film, and that’s it’s most brilliant asset.


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