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BLOOD SIMPLE
DVD region 2. Momentum.

Blood SimpleThere have been so many US remakes of Asian movies that it seems only fair that the trend be reversed once in a while, and although The Coen Brothers’ debut neo-noir Blood Simple seems an odd choice to translate to feudal China, the end results of Zhang Yimou’s re-imagining (and yes, that’s an appropriate phrase in this case) are pretty pleasing.

Relocating the action to a noodle shop in the middle of the desert, the film tells the story of miserable, greedy and abusive boss Wang (Ni Dahong), who is prone to cheating his employees and beating his young wife (Yan Ni), who in turn is having an affair with an employee. Discovering this, he hires corrupt local policeman Zhang (Sun Honglei) to kill the pair. But as anyone who has seen the original film could tell you, things soon descend into a series of double crosses and misunderstandings…

Blood SimpleThe story of Blood Simple might seem pure Noir, but it’s clearly a universal enough idea that it can translate to entirely alien settings – at times while watching this, I began to wonder what other styles could be adapted to a remake. Zhang – director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers – is arguably a better filmmaker than the Coens (who, for me, have never matched their stunning debut, instead becoming critical darlings for a series of increasingly smug movies – and lest any of their fans complain about this, let’s not forget that they are no strangers to the dodgy remake themselves, as anyone who suffered through The Ladykillers could attest) and while some of the none-too-subtle slapstick humour on display during the first part of this film might be a bit much for anyone not hardened to Chinese cinema, his building of tension and dramatic action scenes can’t be faulted. As you would expect from his previous work, this film looks gorgeous.

There’s fun to be had watching a couple of iconic visual moments from the original film recreated here (I’ll let you find out which ones for yourself), and on the whole, the film does a splendid job of capturing the theme of the first film – namely that murder is rarely as straight-forward as the movies might suggest.

This film has had something of a critical mauling and bombed badly in America (where it was released as A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop), but I suspect that had as much to do with the Coens being sacred cows as any failings in this film. I’d suggest you ignore the naysayers and give it a chance. Terrible cover though!

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

 

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