This cross-cultural translation of Joel & Ethan Coen's Blood Simple makes for a colorful, yet not so tautly nourishing noir that sounds like a spaghetti western.
A Woman, A Gun, And A Noodle Shop (in Mandarin with English subtitles) is directed by 2008 Beijing Olympics maestro Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) without much of the darker irony and wit of its antecedent. The highly regarded helmer modulates the mood of a tale of double-crossing and some violence with some hyper, exaggerated strokes in a stylized manner that disturbs the effect of the storyline and characterizations.
It all revolves around an extramarital affair now in what looks to be around 17th century China rather than Texas about a generation ago. An abused wife (Yan Ni) has become intimate with clumsy noodle shop worker Li (Xiao Shenyang) to the chagrin of her husband/shop proprietor Wang (Ni Dahong).
The crux of what is twisty and slap sticky and full of visual energy and rich hues is what happens from the owner's shifty plan to off his wife and Li. Again, it's a quartet of players with betrayal, lust, misunderstanding, and revenge simmering with the fourth being a tax-collector of a soldier retained by a rough, manipulative Wang. What he does and doesn't do causes Li and Wang's wife to think the worst as the latter secretly bought a gun (an interesting touch for this era) for her lover to use on her husband.
Yimou often spritely works with his cast and crew nicely from such an out-of-the-way destination, a noodle shop as it doesn't really have that edge-of-your-seat feel until the last act. Perhaps those unfamiliar the original, more daring cinema will appreciate some of its operatic flair and flavoring with its own unique stamp. However, the navigation and close replication of chaos from silliness to virulency is nearly as much of an undoing as are its characters.