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May 2011

Blood Simple

cast: Honglei Sun, Xiao Shen-yang, Ni Yan, Dahong Ni, and Ye Cheng

director: Yimou Zhang

91 minutes (12) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2

RATING: 7/10
review by Christopher Geary

Blood Simple

Although the DVD box sleeve artwork suggests this is another of those samurai epics, Blood Simple (aka: A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop) is actually a bemusingly efficient remake of the Coen brothers' 1984 debut neo-noir feature, complete with all of the original movie's tragicomic narrative quirks intact, despite the obvious fact that Yimou Zhang's savage farce is set in 19th century China's outback, and swaps a Texas bar for a noodle cafe. Making the noodles for a visiting police squad is a dazzlingly choreographed sequence by itself. That juggling for cookery act is bracketed by many slapstick comedy scenes, and threads of black farce run throughout the whole movie.

Wang (Dahong Ni) suspects that his unfaithful wife (Ni Yan) is having an affair with employee Li (Xiao Shen-Yang). Wang hires corrupt cop Zhang (Honglei Sun) to kill the unhappy couple, but the quietly scheming wife has armed herself with a gun she bought (in the wackiest of bizarre opening sequences!) from a Persian trader, while quietly plotting Zhang sees a golden opportunity to get rid of Wang, steal his savings from an office safe (with an abacus padlock!) and lay blame onto the adulterous wife.

With some eye-boiling colour schemes, eccentric folksiness, an absolutely hysterical crime-gone-wrong scenario, and boasting a CGI-enhanced finale with shootings and swordplay, culminating (just like the Coens' original witty scripting) in one of modern cinema's funniest closing lines, this is an impressively polished remake that, for once, fully deserves the otherwise purely-gobbledygook term, 're-imagining' - as it switches locations and exchanges cultural tropes, and redefines the very absurd universality of filmic story, with a droll unsentimental charm, leisurely grace, and perfect timing.

Murder and burial, haunting grief and guilty secrets, vengeful resurrection nightmare and more humorous reversal-of-fortune twists than your average Tex Avery cartoon, this Asian version of Blood Simple is delightful entertainment, especially if you have seen, and long admired, the impressive audacity and characteristic wickedness of the Coens' stylised noir tribute.

Although that famous tag-line: "so sharp you can cut your wrists on it" for the Coens' Blood Simple does not really apply here, Yimou Zhang's Blood Simple is an inspired choice for revisionist filmmaking, with a certain offbeat appeal for any followers of the foreign film industry's current and effectively refreshing cycle of divertingly cult-worthy remakes in genre cinema (see: Connected, Newsmakers, etc). As a departure from the Chinese director's familiar and magnificent epics - such as House Of Flying Daggers, Hero, and Curse Of The Golden Flower, it's also a welcome treat.



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