Antonio Banderas starrer “The Big Bang” is a borderline unintelligible, scattershot attempt at Lynchian neo-noir that takes intellectual and aesthetic risks it has no reasonable hope of pulling off. And yet train wreck that it may be, it’s completely watchable, at times garishly eye-catching, and certainly the only film in theaters that features Snoop Dogg comparing himself to Alfred Hitchcock. Clearly counting on its star (and some considerable cameos) to goose audience interest, “Bang” looks most likely to whimper in and out of limited release.
The film is doubtless an unacknowledged reboot of Raymond Chandler’s “Farewell, My Lovely,” so it comes by its plot challenges naturally — Chandler himself was more interested in mood. But while director Tony Krantz maintains the anything-goes storytelling, cheeky narration and gritty L.A. locations, he makes no attempt at recreating the noir-king’s shadowy atmospherics, instead lensing the pic with a psychedelic, quasi-mystical hue that’s both pretty and distracting.
The tale told by bloodied, temporarily blinded private eye Ned Cruz (Banderas) as he’s interrogated by a trio of shady cops (Delroy Lindo, Thomas Kretschmann and William Fichtner) concerns a giant Russian boxer (Robert Maillet, looking taller and wider than a beer truck), freshly out of the pen, who hires Ned to track down a girl who’s been writing him in prison. After some needless episodes in strip clubs and porn sets, he follows the trail to a stash of missing diamonds hidden somewhere in a company town unaccountably filled with Sikhs in the New Mexico desert.
It’s there that things get truly weird, as Ned is drawn into a romantic triangle involving the missing girl (Sienna Guillory), her reclusive billionaire husband (Sam Elliott, donning a horrendous hippie wig) and a synesthetic scientist (Jimmi Simpson). The three are working on an underground particle collider, which occasions all sorts of metaphysical musings and, most bizarrely, leads Ned into a tryst with a waitress-slash-particle physics enthusiast (Autumn Reeser). The conflation of New Age philosophizing, detective fiction and goofy erotica bears a touch of Haruki Murakami here, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that these elements have been shoehorned in, and mean far less than the filmmakers think they do.
Banderas is unmistakably having fun with the role, though often at the expense of the film, and his heavy Spanish accent makes him an unusual Marlowe. Though it’s no great loss when his delivery garbles the script’s cringe-inducing tough-guy quips, of which Ned’s description of a midget on fire as a “white dwarf gone supernova” reps a high/low point.
Production design and lensing are both topnotch, even though they call a great deal of attention to themselves, and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr’s score is intrusive.