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STUDIO: Anchor Bay Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
• Audio commentary featuring producer/director Tony Krantz and co-producer Reece Pearson
• Lex Parsimonaie: The Making of The Big Bang
• Extended scenes
If you loved Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, you might actually sit through The Big Bang!
Starring Antonio Banderas, Autumn Reeser, Sam Elliott, Jimmi Simpson, Snoop Dogg, Robert Maillet, William Fichtner
Written by Erik Jendresen
Directed by Tony Krantz
Stereotypical gumshoe Ned Cruz (Banderas) takes on a missing persons case when a former Russian boxer (Maillet) comes to him needing help finding his pen-pal love that he made while in prison. His search takes him to New Mexico where he finds an eccentric billionaire (Elliott) building a particle collider under the small town that may or may not create a black hole when he turns it on. Also there are three cops on his tail and the mob after the boxer because the boxer knows about a stash of expensive diamonds. And an albino dwarf.
You know the plot is convoluted well beyond any sensible level when the film starts to finally flow with some sort of rhythm and make sense when the crazy scientist starts talking about the physics of what happens one trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Maybe that’s just because I find that sort of science fascinating. Although, given how terribly choppy the first act is, even if you don’t much care for quarks and gluons, you’d still find the second half of the second act far more engaging than everything leading up to it. That is, provided you make it that far.
To be honest, had I not been reviewing this film, I wouldn’t have. Within 25 minutes, we’re introduced to a thick-accented, hard-boiled private eye named Cruz; a giant, Russian boxer (Maillet) who was recently released from a life prison sentence; three over-the-top cops (one of whom is played by the can’t-get-enough-of William Fichtner chewing all kinds of scenery in huge helpings); Snoop Dogg as a porn director who also acts in his own films; a missing stripper who happened to fall in love with the giant, Russian boxer via hand-written letters; and millions of dollars in missing diamonds. Oh, did I mention the druggie movie star named Adam Nova played by James Van Der Beek who is supposed to be the biggest marquee actor around? Or his best friend, the albino dwarf — yes, it’s not enough to just be a small person anymore, now you have to make them albino to stand out — who gets launched, ablaze, out of a mansion?
Perhaps it would’ve all been easier to follow were the film not narrated by Banderas and his thick Spanish accent. Normally I don’t have a problem understanding him, but he’s also usually not talking so much through the whole movie. Hearing him say the Russian boxer’s name multiple times was laughable — and completely indecipherable. And then when he actually has scenes with the Russian boxer, played by the seven-feet-tall Robert Maillet who has an almost impossibly deep rumble for a voice, it’s hopeless. Without subtitles, you have to pay such close attention to even try to keep up with the pointless plot – something about the mafia springing the boxer loose to guide him to the diamonds and then there’s Sam Elliot building a particle accelerator in New Mexico – which isn’t nearly interesting enough to be worth our attention, that you just check out. Especially with a fantastic score by The Smiths’ Johnny Marr lulling you into a trance, the last thing you want to do is have to rewind scenes in the first act to figure out just what mumbled dialogue you missed.
It’s one thing to have to participate in your film viewing experience. I’m all for that. But this is ridiculous. The biggest problem (aside from the whole not understanding hardly anyone) is that it’s just trying way to hard. Screenwriter Erik Jendresen throws everything including the kitchen sink into his plot, trying to keep us all off balance wondering what’s going on in this noir-style mystery, but our wonder quickly turns to indifference as too many random and over-the-top elements hit us all at once, not giving us any time to sink into our surroundings and believe any of what we’re seeing. Even though the world inhabited by Ned Cruz and the oddballs throughout is definitely a heightened reality – accentuated by the inspired visuals by director Tony Krantz – there still needs to be some level of believability for us to grasp onto. And like I mentioned earlier, to its credit, once you get into the second act a ways, it starts to be rather engaging. Of course, this is far, far too late for the movie to finally get interesting, but at least, for my sake and any others who venture further than the first twenty minutes, it’s not all a waste of time. Sam Elliot is always welcomed in any movie I see, especially when he plays an eccentric billionaire who is obsessed with finding the Higgs boson, also known as the God particle. His decision to focus on his science over his wife leads to a surprisingly fun and entertaining – if ridiculous – final act. Had the journey to that point been more accessible and more lean, The Big Bang could’ve been a success.
Visually, it’s solid. Krantz clearly looked to Sin City as his pre-viz for communicating to his DP and producers what sort of look he was going for, which I consider to be a good thing. There is definitely quite a bit of green screen work going on but it’s balanced out well with actual sets and locations so that it doesn’t get overly stylized except in certain scenes — the standouts being when Cruz is driving from LA to New Mexico, and when Cruz and the (formerly) missing woman run away from the Russian boxer. Where Robert Rodriguez sucked the color out of his palette for his neo-noir tale, Krantz goes in the complete opposite direction, saturating his film with extremely vivid colors. There’s plenty of shadow play and high contrast, of course, but The Big Bang goes for a similar effect by hitting the other end of the spectrum, which I think works well. There’s still that odd feeling of timelessness and uncertain space that keeps you off balance as you’d expect in a detective noir.
Unfortunately, the style doesn’t make up for the lack of substance. Or, rather, the lack of coherent substance. There’s plenty of evidence that Jendresen threw everything he could think of at the wall and went with whatever stuck, which in this case, was quite a bit. There’s a fine line between making a mystery plot intriguing and making it completely numbing. Shane Black straddles it masterfully in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, a movie that The Big Bang shares partially in name, and wishes it shared completely in quality.
Comes with a director’s commentary track and a making of featurette, so it’s not bare-bones. Nothing that you couldn’t find on a standard DVD, though, either. The Blu-ray definitely makes those vivid colors that Krantz loves to paint with pop off the screen, so if you’re going to check this movie out, I highly recommend the BR rather than streaming it on Netflix so you can enjoy the only really good thing about it: the visuals. That and Autumn Reeser half naked, of course.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars