A cruel noodle shop owner offers a corrupt police officer money to kill his unfaithful wife and her lover, but when he double crosses and murders him the hapless lover covers up the crime fearing his mistress responsible.
I was very curious to see Zhang Yimou’s interpretation of the Coen brothers’ debut film, being a big fan of Hero and House Of Flying Daggers as well as the original film in question. The story has a lot of potential for inventive adaptation and I was hoping for an Akira Kurosawa’s Shakespearian style affair; unfortunately what Zhang has served up is more Stephen Chow than Akira Kurosawa. The grim details of the plot have survived intact but the cartoon characters in gaudy pantomime costumes stutter, pratfall and double-take away like refugees from an episode of Scooby Doo making a very uneasy concoction of weak slapstick humour and bleak neo Noir that just doesn’t work. Stone-faced Honglei Sun has none of the character of M. Emmett Walsh’s sleazy private eye and all the suspense and sexual tension of the protagonists disappears in a puff of smoke when portrayed like a Carry On film.
The final scene actually works quite well as it’s a straight adaptation using swords and arrows instead of gunfire, but this just serves to throw into sharp relief how ill-judged the rest of the film truly is.