Remember the 1984 Coen brothers film "Blood Simple"? It was the story about a man who hires a private investigator to kill his wife and the man she is cheating on him with, but it all gets out of control.
Director Zhang Yimou's latest film "A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop" is basically "Blood Simple" except that it takes place in 19th-century China.
"Noodle Shop" is so cheesy, so to speak, and so over the top that I wasn't sure if one is supposed to take it seriously. The opening scene sure points you in that direction. It features a Persian trader swinging a sword around like a mad idiot. You don't know what to think. Is this some kind of serious fight scene?
It isn't until he stops that you find out he was trying to sell weapons at a noodle shop out in a desert town in China. The shop is run by a harsh but cunning man named Wang (Dahong Ni). After 10 years of abuse Wang's wife, (Ni Yan), secretly has an affair with Li (Xiao Shen Yang) a co-worker.
When Wang finds out, he hires a police detective named Zhang (Honglei Sun) to kill them. Wang thinks everything is going smoothly, but he doesn't know that Zhang has his own ideas and soon even more violence occurs.
From the plot summary you'd expect this film to be dark and violent, but it was hilarious, not really in a clever way but in a stupid way. The actors would bumble around running into things. They would transform the gravity of disposing of a body into slapstick.
The whole film is laugh-out-loud funny-both intentionally and unintentionally. Some of the serious scenes were even funnier than the ones that were trying to make you laugh in the first place.
The acting for the most part was terrible. In fact, the majority of the times I laughed was at how badly the actors delivered their lines. Honglei Sun as the detective was about the only good actor and that's just because managed to keep a serious look on his face the whole time.
Everyone else overacted their lines big time. At emotional parts where you were supposed to feel for the characters you couldn't help but laugh because you felt like you were watching a bad soap opera.
The cinematography in "Noodle Shop" was terrific. Kudos to Yimou for capturing the red painted dunes of the desert. And there were some fine shots, such as the opening demonstration, or when the group makes a batch of fresh noodles for a group of policemen, they take turns spinning the dough around in the air like a pizza. There was a sort of grace to each action shot.
Despite all the film's shortcomings I can't say I hated the movie entirely. The picture has a big, colorful, energetic feel to it that's mildly entertaining and keeps your interest. But compared to "Blood Simple," it is like a plate of undercooked noodles.
"A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop" opens Sept. 10 at the Harvard Exit Theatre.[[In-content Ad]]