The Chinese director Zhang Yimou is no doubt best known to general audiences not for his movies but for his tutti-frutti over-the-top staging of the Beijing Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies. Actually, his most recent movies, “Curse of the Golden Flower,” "House of Flying Daggers,” and “Hero,” were also pretty tutti-frutti.
There was a time, however, when Zhang’s films were hallmarks of restraint and sensitivity (e.g., “The Story of Qiu Ju,” “Raise the Red Lantern”). His latest film, “A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop,” is a loose remake of the Coen Brothers' noir thriller “Blood Simple,” and it’s the most scaled-back of his movies in some time. Unfortunately, simplicity is its only virtue.
Set mostly in the desert, this tale of double and triple crosses involving an old miser (Ni Dahong) and his tarty young wife (Yan Ni) is replete with boisterously unfunny black slapstick. Zhang needs to reconnect with the sensibility – fierce, principled, humanistic – that made him one of China’s finest film artists. Grade: C (Rated R for some violence.)