Heads up, Coen brothers junkies: Chinese master Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers, Hero) has put his own spin on the brothers' 1985 Texas film noir, Blood Simple. Set in the deserts of ancient China, the film has colors that pop like a hooker's lip gloss, but the visual wonders are dimmed by the filmmaker's broadly comic approach. An odd choice for a crime drama about a geezer innkeeper (Ni Dahong) who hires a cop (Sun Hunglei in the role M. Emmet Walsh played with memorably sleazy menace) to kill his young wife (Yan Ni) and her noodle- chef lover (Xiao Shenyang). Zhang gave similar material more heft and heat in 1990's Ju Dou. Some may enjoy the slapstick, which plays like Harold & Kumar Go to Old Peking, but this bloodless Coen crib job is simply not my cup of noodles.
From The Archives Issue 1113: September 16, 2010