Monday, August 22, 2011

East/West Mash-ups

I've been neglecting this blog shamefully of late, and for those who follow it, I offer my sincerest contrition, along with a couple of reviews.

As it happens, I saw two pictures recently worth mentioning, both of which have an East-meets-West connotation. One was A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop (2009). It's a remake of the Coen Brothers' first film, Blood Simple (1984), only set in Ming dynasty China (Gansu province to be precise). It's pretty faithful to the original film plot-wise and a feast for the eyes. Director Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise the Red Lantern) contrasts the desolate wastes of his locations with brightly colored costumes and talented actors, several of which are also accomplished noodle dough jugglers (you just have to see it). My only complaint is one I normally have with Hollywood films -- no character development. At least not up front -- you are thrust into the midst of the main characters and have to hit the ground running. Eventually they develop, but it's a little rough at first trying to get a handle on who they are and what they're like, as well as whether you give a fuck about them. All in all, though, I found it enjoyable and I got completely sucked in, even though I knew what was going to happen next.

I also enjoyed The Warrior's Way (2010), a rip-snorting western featuring Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun (Friend, Tae Guk Gi, 2009: Lost Memories) as a master ninja. Jang plays it like an Asian Clint Eastwood, handling the language passably. Geoffrey Rush is fun as the irascible town drunk and Danny Houston chews scenery to beat the band as hideous, tooth-obsessed baddie The Colonel. It's just a romp, but rookie director Lee Sngmoo delivers the goods with style and verve, creating a quality picture that augers a promising career. If you were disappointed by the predictable Cowboys and Aliens, perhaps Cowboys and Ninja will be more to your liking.