I am, unsurprisingly for a guy writing on a blog about movies, a huge fan of the Coen brothers and pretty much every film they’ve made. A shocking revelation, I know. That said, I was intrigued to discover that Chinese director Yimou Zhang (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers) had created a remake of Blood Simple, the first film the Coens produced together. The chance to see a foreign remake of a modern American classic is always an interesting proposition. So, how did it turn out? Well, I’d say the results were mixed at best.
Blood Simple is a semi-noir drama centered around a sleazy bar owner, Julian, that suspects his young, beautiful wife, Abby, of infidelity. Julian hires eccentric private investigator Loren Visser to follow Abby and one of his bartenders, Ray, to verify his suspicions. The affair is discovered and a murderous plot is hatched shortly thereafter. The film is full of plot twists, misunderstandings, and double crosses. While it is at times disturbing and tense, it is also underpinned throughout by a dark sense of humor.
Zhang’s remake, A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop, is much the same story. The major difference, though, is the setting. The bar from the original movie is replaced by a remote, desert noodle shop in ancient China. Wang, the stingy, abusive owner of the noodle shop hires investigator Zhang to prove his wife is having an affair with Li, a noodle shop employee. While the general story line remains the same, the personalities and details of each of the characters varies greatly from those in the American version. The Chinese film is much more of a visual spectacle and amps up the humor by using slapstick and over the top performances.
Both of the films are entertaining and both offer unique takes on the same themes. In my mind, Blood Simple is without a doubt the better film. If you have never seen it, I would say you’re certainly missing out. On the other hand, if you are already a fan of the original, A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop should be found and watched if only to see such a wildly different experience that is still able to stick so closely to its roots. While the remake is flawed and loses some of the original’s nuance and atmosphere, it remains a bold, visually stunning retelling of the Coen brothers’ story.