Title: The Big Bang
Director: Tony Krantz
Starring: Antonio Banderas, William Fichtner, Delroy Lindo, Thomas Kretschmann, Robert Maillet, Sienna Guillory, Autumn Reeser, Sam Elliott, Jimmi Simpson, James Van Der Beek, Snoop Dogg, Rebecca Mader
The presence of a very recognizable ensemble cast can’t save The Big Bang, a colossally strange film noir misfire that plays like a TV pilot run amok, and is bound to go down in history — to the extent that it’s remembered at all — only as the stumper answer to the niche cinematic trivia question, “In what film does Antonio Banderas have a sex scene with a waitress who spews jibberish about particle physics, and also share two separate scenes with a robe-clad Snoop Dogg and a robe-clad James Van Der Beek?”
Let me back up… that introduction makes The Big Bang sound much more interesting and engaging than it actually is. Framed in flashback, as captive Los Angeles private investigator Ned Cruz (Banderas) gets grilled by a trio of possibly dirty cops (Thomas Kretschmann, William Fichtner, Delroy Lindo), the movie centers on the labyrinthine business inquiries Ned conducts on behalf of a just-paroled Russian boxer, Anton Protopov (Robert Maillet, of Sherlock Holmes). Charged with tracking down Anton’s mysterious stripper pen pal Lexie (Sienna Guillory), Ned, after much difficulty and various encounters with many colorful characters, tracks Lexie to the New Mexico desert. There, he gets kidnapped by Lexie’s husband, a willowy-maned reclusive and eccentric billionaire, Simon Kestral (Sam Elliott), who has self-funded plans to conduct an underground semiconductor experiment to locate “the god particle.” Oh, and all that’s not even mentioning the aforementioned nutjob waitress (Autumn Reeser); an emotionally stunted, sexually kinky physicist (Jimmi Simpson); and a cache of hidden diamonds.
So, oh sure… it’s another one of those stories. Despite all this apparent narrative adventurousness, the sophomore directorial effort of TV-producer-turned-director Tony Krantz is far more labored than colorfully inventive. Erik Jendresen’s script is awkward and overwritten, a grab-bag of forced quirk for little more than it’s own sake. The dialogue basically falls into two discrete camps: ham-fisted exposition, and flighty, armchair philosphizing.
None of the characters are developed in a fashion that deepens them much beyond how they dutifully serve the story, and major players are still being introduced over an hour into the proceedings. At other times, the screenplay bends and contorts to set up some lame, air-quote witty joke, as it does with a brief and almost entirely unnecessary sequence focusing on a drugged-out playboy actor (James Van Der Beek) who has an albino midget sidekick, seemingly only so Ned can quip, “It’s astrophysics — a white dwarf gone supernova” when the latter gets launched through a window after an explosion.
Maillet, at seven feet tall, is a striking physical presence that dominates the screen, but the movie fails to fully and consistently capitalize on his hulking stature, in either menacing or comedic fashion. Banderas, meanwhile, gives a decidedly uninspired turn, plowing through his lines in a one-note manner that indicates an indifference to the material. One supposes a local shoot contributed to both his presence as well as the appearance of so many other name actors (pop in, pick up a paycheck, duck out), but while a couple bring something different to the table (Fichtner puts a nice spin on the tired cliche of the hotheaded cop role), most can’t escape the stultifying banality of their dialogue. This includes Snoop Dogg, who, rather improbably, has trouble conveying sleaziness in a cameo as a porn producer.
Far and away the most interesting and involving thing about The Big Bang is its cinematography, from Shelly Johnson, who also lensed Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo and the recent remake of The Wolfman. Trading in big, canted angles and other imaginative framing, Johnson sketches a neon-lit urban hellscape that gives the material an electric charge otherwise lacking in its story proper. Even a score by ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, seemingly a big deal and nice fit, fails to connect. The Big Bang tries to inject the soupy moodiness of the noir genre with a surfeit of cool and edgy thrills, but, ironically, it’s actually just a big snooze.
Written by: Brent Simon