Zhang Yimou’s A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop takes the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple (1984) and re-imagines it as a Western in the Chinese desert. Wang (Ni Dahong), a hardened noodle shop owner, suspects his wife is having an affair with his timid employee, Li (Xiao Shenyang).

His suspicions are correct – Wang’s wife (Yan Ni) has even bought a gun to kill her husband and end her unhappy marriage. Meanwhile, Wang decides to do something about the affair and hires officer Zhang (Sun Honglei) to kill the couple. Unfortunately, Zhang has his own plans, and what ensues is a tense sequence of coincidences that ends in bloodshed. Because, as in most Wild West stories, it comes down to two things: sex and money.

The mood of the film is that of a black comedy set in a saturated, dynamic color scheme. It’s thrilling because all the debauched actions of the characters take place in the rolling hills of the desert; their actions need hiding but at the same time are out in the open.

Once officer Zhang’s actions are set in motion, the pace is very slow and deliberate, only broken up occasionally by somewhat tiresome slapstick sequences. What the director does so well in this film is that he utilizes the visual panache of his previous films (like Hero and House of Flying Daggers) and contains it in a quiet and suspenseful series of events. This way, those moments of visual excitement really stand out and the mind has time to take them in. Every Hollywood action film of the last year or so that has tried to emulate Zhang’s style haS just become a big mess, overwhelming the audience with visual information. Zhang has made a better film by making a more controlled film.

Noodle Shop is definitely a thing of beauty. The red of the hills, the bright greens and pinks of the clothing, the blue of the stone in the noodle shop walls – all gorgeous. This, with the elegance of the suspense plot, is almost enough to outweigh the extremely traditional comedy routines.

Grade: A-

A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop releases in select theaters Sept. 3.