Tuesday, 19 April 2011
REVIEW: ZHANG YIMOU'S BLOOD SIMPLE (R2 DVD)
Film: Blood Simple **
Release date: 18th April 2011
Running time: 95 mins
Director: Zhang Yimou
Starring: Sun Honglei, Xiao Shen-Yang, Yan Ni, Ni Dahong, Ye Cheng
Genre: Comedy/Crime/Drama/Martial Arts/Thriller
Reviewer: Adam Wing
A week doesn’t seem to pass these days without an ill-conceived Western remake of an Eastern classic. Hell with it - they don’t even have to be classics anymore. Zhang Yimou is best known for martial arts period dramas like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, but here he turns the tables on Hollywood with a loose remake of the Coen Brothers cult classic Blood Simple.
A strange choice on paper perhaps, and there’s not a lot of evidence on screen to suggest otherwise. Honglei Sun, Xiao Shen-Yang and Ni Yan star in the aptly named A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, available to own for the first time on R2 DVD. Wang (Dahong Ni) is a miserable noodle shop owner in a desert town, but considering the dim-witted company he keeps it’s hardly surprising. His wife (Ni Yan) feels neglected and finds comfort in the arms of Li (Xiao Shen-Yang), one of her husband’s employees.
Wang finds out about the affair and schemes to murder his adulterous wife and her lover, but situations like this are rarely that straight forward. Li keeps hold of a gun that his lover had bought in order to kill her husband and together they plot his demise. Little do they know that he has bribed patrol officer Zhang (Honglei Sun) in order to kill the illicit couple - it’s a foolproof plan surely, what could possibly go wrong?
Zhang Yimou drops wife-fu swordplay in favour of slapstick comedy and costume drama, so at least the actors look pretty, but did he really have to drop the ball as well? Lets be brutally honest from the word go - it doesn’t really work now, does it? Zhang Yimou has created a beautiful picture, with stunning scenery, outlandish costumes and dazzling cinematography. He’s taken elements of a classic film-noir and combined them with what can best be described as regional humour, and that’s me being polite. Slapstick, juvenile, regional, whatever you want to call it, this unique style of comedy has never travelled well, and it really doesn’t work in a film of this nature. 80’s Jackie Chan caper maybe, loose remake of a moody Coen Brothers favourite - not so much.
The plotting is slight and yet the scattershot themes and characters are all over the place. One early scene finds our four protagonists making dough, which is all well and good if you like watching plate spinning, but quite where it fits in the grand scheme of things is never made clear. Perhaps the scene was included to further prolong a pretty lean running time, because when you take into account the slapstick comedy and needless asides, Zhang Yimou’s Blood Simple doesn’t have a whole lot to say.
Performances are solid throughout, if not a little wide-eyed and over-stated, but the comedy doesn’t translate to a Western world and all that you’re left with is a straightforward premise that’s easy on the eye. The cover art for the DVD release is certainly misleading, suggesting an action epic in the same vein as Hero and House of Flying Daggers, but the cold hard truth is nothing of the sort. Blood Simple may have performed well back home, but on UK shores it will struggle to find an audience.
If you’re going to frame a routine thriller with juvenile humour, make sure it’s funny first. Simply put, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop misses the mark completely. In fact, it almost makes you want to sample some local cuisine instead.