Anchor Bay // 2011 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // May 30th, 2011
"You have arrived here at the penultimate moment of the ultimate spiritual pursuit."
What is it about film noire that brings directors, writers and actors running into the pool to play? Is it the urge to look cool? Is it the fact that you get to have dames and fellas in the film? Or is it just an old reliable style that can be counted on for some solid entertainment? I think The Big Bang is opting for all of the above.
Ned Cruz (Antonio Banderas) is a private eye who is sick of the business. After he witnesses an exploding little person, he vows to quit his job and get out of L.A. That's when the hulking Anton "the Pro" Protopov (Robert Maillet) appears in his office.
The Pro is looking for his gal and he wants Ned to find her. The trick is that The Pro has been doing time and met Lexie (Sienna Guillory) as a pen pal. Now that he's free, he has no clue to her whereabouts. Because Anton has a wad of money and is pretty scary looking Ned accepts the case.
The search for this mysterious woman will involve artsy strip clubs, an encounter with Snoop Dogg, wild sex with a physics obsessed waitress, a cross dresser and a billionaire building his own Large Hadron Collider in the middle of New Mexico. Rest assured the film is going to end with a big bang.
Well you've got a private eye as the main character, and he's delivering a Sam Spade type voice over. Can you really do anything else but call this a film noir thriller?
Why not embrace the conventions? The Big Bang appears to do just that, with Cruz telling his story to three cops who are grilling him for information. As his story unravels in a series of flashbacks we understand more about Cruz and about these three cops who seem a little too eager to hear the tale.
Once it hits the point where the palooka hires Cruz to find his mysterious femme fatale, we think all the movie's chips are on the table. But the film takes a bit of twist. First there is the whole scientific angle dealing with billionaire Simon Kestral (Sam Elliott). At first he just appears to be another power player in the story, but he actually brings one of the themes of the film to life. From the start the film drops little lines about the speed of light, cosmic anomalies and even a warehouse named after Erwin Schrodinger's cat. Physics and the search for the "God Particle" appear with Mr. Kestral. This bizarre delving into science seems at odds with what in essence is a typical thriller.
But the theme of the movie is "the search." All these characters are looking for something. All of them are driven in different ways and come colliding right above a Large Hadron Collider. Coincidence?
I have to say that this movie serves up a delicious visual experience. Director Tony Krantz knows his film noir and he goes for it full throttle here with some great compositions and lighting. The result is a mix of your typical film noir with a boost of vibrant color that bleeds into everything. I've seen visuals like this before, but usually in anime. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom had a look very similar to this. It's a treat to see it executed so well in live action.
The actors are all game and seem to be having a great time in the film. Sam Elliott nearly steals the show as the eccentric and determined Kestral. His dialogue is a hoot and he dives right into the part. I also enjoyed Autumn Reeser as the physics obsessed waitress who helps Cruz in his quest. Her character adds a bit of lightness to some of the darker scenes in the film. Thomas Kretscmann, William Fichtner and Delroy Lindo play the three cops perfectly. We don't get fully fleshed out stories for this triad, but there is a depth to each of them. As the stakes get higher we can see the fraying around the edges of their cop presence. These guys are desperate and they play it close to the vest until the end.
Johnny Marr of The Smiths provides the score and it fits the film like a glove. It's mostly deep dark guitar work, but there's a song or two in there. It reminded me quite a bit of something David Lynch worked into Mulholland Drive.
Anchor Bay's Blu-ray is the way to watch The Big Bang. Capturing the blacks is key to the whole look of the film and this Blu-ray looks gorgeous. The Dolby True-HD sounds great as well; balancing the music, dialogue and sound effects. You get a pretty good set of extras. First is a commentary track featuring director Tony Krantz and Producer Reece Pearson. Then there's a 20 minute behind the scenes featurette that gives a nice overview of how the project came about and various inspirations for the script and look of the film. You also get a couple of extended scenes to watch.
I'm really torn when it comes to Banderas' performance in this film. On the one hand his acting is very good, he's obviously into the part. On the other hand the dialogue just doesn't sound natural coming from him. This is your typical hard boiled detective dialogue that Humphrey Bogart could perform in his sleep. Banderas gives it a good go, but for some reason it just wasn't working. Since he is in nearly every scene of the film and providing voiceover when he isn't actually speaking, it hurts the film.
Then there was Maillet who is physically imposing and has presence. But once again the dialogue just doesn't work coming out of his mouth. He's also saddled with a Russian accent that muddles some of his lines. So when he's sharing scenes with Banderas the effect of his thick accent is almost comical.
Finally there's the fact that this movie is trying to be a noir film with a scientific bent, a twist of David Lynch and a shot of Tarantino. Sounds kind of bizarre, and the final product is. The whole thing just never quite takes off like you want it to. Entertaining and visually arresting -- sure, but it's missing that bit of cohesive thread to make it a real cult classic.
The Big Bang attempts to do a lot of different things, and while it may not actually achieve all of them, I give the creators credit for aiming high to deliver something a little out of the ordinary.
Maybe not the ultimate spiritual pursuit, but certainly not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2011 Roman Martel; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Extended Scenes
* Wikipedia: Large Hadron Collider
* Wikipedia: The God Particle