I don’t like remakes. Generally speaking, they offer relatively little change from the original and more often than not the filmmakers don’t make the new version their own. I can think of a couple of films off the top of my head that fit in this category: Friday the 13th, Black Christmas, The Longest Yard, Miracle on 34th St., Psycho and The Parent Trap, to name a few. Each year it seems like more and more film companies are reaching into their back catalog for properties to re-use and the lack of “originality” is nothing short of frustrating to a writer such as myself. You hardly need to do much more than Ctrl+C / Ctrl+V and viola! Instant Remake! So, you can imagine my lack of expectations going into A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop.
Apparently, I need to rethink my stance on remakes some.
A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is an insanely fresh take on the Coen Brother’s Blood Simple. The abused wife of a businessman has an affair with one of her husband’s employees and when the husband finds out he hires a local authority to kill them both. The basic plot is the same between both films, which you’d be able see if you watched them one after the other. Other than that, the two films are vastly different. Zhang Yimou, of Hero and House of Flying Daggers acclaim, brings a unique style to the film that’s hard not to like. Leaving the theater, I had to remind myself quite a few times that this film was in fact a remake.
The blending of humor and drama is perhaps where this film stands out the most. Like with remakes, I’m not a huge fan of over-the-top humor and am even less of a fan of slapstick when it’s juxtaposed with violence or drama. Here, however, the comedy is played smart and it is played well. Movement from the darker elements of the story to the humorous never seem forced or out of place and help define the characters. There’s one scene in particular where two of the side characters are trying to break into the boss’ safe to get their wages while another character is trying to do the same. The back and forth between the two situations is hilarious and I found myself laughing while simultaneously at the edge of my seat.
This is perhaps due in part to the casting, which fits the story quite well. I admittedly know very little about the players in this film, so I can’t really judge on previous merits, or what they bring to this film versus others. What I do know is that the performances were believable and kept some of the film’s wackier moments from getting too wacky. The standout role here of course is that of the Officer/Hit Man character, who compared to his American counterpart in Blood Simple, plays it “straight-man” to everyone else’s idiot.
The cinematography in this film is yet another standout in this film. I don’t think I’ve seen such use of color that’s both jarring and beautiful at the same time. Transition scenes like the one above are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to this film. There were a few times where I wished that I could just jump right into the frame and roll around in the vibrant orange hills, or watch a sunrise bloody the vast and unrelenting landscape. Even in a scene that involves light scatological humor, we’re witness to breathtaking composition.
I could probably ramble on a bunch more about how I absolutely enjoyed this film, but I think you get the idea. If more filmmakers would approach remakes like Zhang Yimou approached his take on Blood Simple, I’d be more inclined to go see them. If you’re going to remake a film that you love, why not infuse your sensibilities into it and make it your own? Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to see a guy about…um…some stuff.