A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop (San Qiang Pai an Jing Qi)
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In 1984, directors Joel and Ethan Coen introduced moviegoers to their unconventional brand of movie-making with their dark debut, Blood Simple. Since then, they’ve gone on to entertain and captivate audiences with everything from eccentric drama to over-the-top comedy—but you’ve never seen a Coen Brothers film quite as blatantly wacky as the Chinese Blood Simple remake, A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop (San Qiang Pai an Jing Qi).

Director Yimou Zhang (Hero) offers an almost vaudevillian take on the Coens’ classic story of revenge gone wrong. In a tiny, remote village, wealthy noodle shop owner Wang (Dahong Ni) lives with his beautiful young wife (Ni Yan). But after years of suffering her husband’s abuse and humiliation, Wang’s wife has found love with noodle shop employee Li (Xiao Shen-Yang).

When Wang finds out about his wife’s affair, he decides to hire a detective (Honglei Sun) to kill the adulterous couple. But the detective has his own plan—and Wang’s simple plot soon turns into a deadly mess.

A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop is certainly a bizarre little thriller—but if you can appreciate the slapstick wackiness that’s often found in quirkier Hong Kong action movies, then you’ll enjoy this unexpected reimagining of the Coen Brothers’ debut.

In the beginning, it’s especially over-the-top, with its colorful costumes and ridiculous overacting. The slapstick comedy and the zany supporting characters—like dim-witted, buck-toothed Zhao (Ye Cheng) and the cross-eyed police captain (Benshan Zhao)—definitely get the film off to a strange start. But there’s so much more to the film than just a bunch of outlandish characters and some madcap humor.

The story is simple and suspenseful, and as the tension builds, the quiet moments balance out the screwball comedy, making way for action and humor that’s darker and more subtle. At times, there’s very little dialogue, so you can take a break from reading subtitles to sit back and take it all in. Though the pace does occasionally drag toward the end of the film, it’s all still intriguing enough to hold your attention.

But the most memorable aspect of the film isn’t really its crazy sense of humor or its shadowy suspense; it’s the gorgeous cinematography. The rocky canyon-like backdrops give the film a surreal Western feel, and the result is absolutely stunning—so stunning, in fact, that you might miss parts of the story because you’re so taken in by the enticing scenery.

If the guys from Monty Python teamed up with the Coen Brothers to make a Chinese thriller in the Wild West, it would probably be a lot like A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop. Sometimes quietly suspenseful, sometimes downright silly, it’s a beautifully quirky thriller.

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