In the years since he broke through with art-house landmarks like the great life-under-Mao epic To Live (1994), the Chinese director Zhang Yimou hasn't just made movies - he's adopted aesthetic survival strategies, ways to reinvent himself under an artistically oppressive regime. With Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004), he became a maker of slashingly balletic action pageants. Now, with A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, he has had the audacity to attempt a period Chinese remake of Joel and Ethan Coen's Blood Simple (1985). I wish I could say that the film is half as intriguing as it sounds, but A Woman, a Gun... lacks the Coen brothers' precision, their diabolical game-board cleverness. It's a remake in shaggy outline only.
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