A psychedelic neo-noir with a charming male lead and a plot made up of a missing stripper, a giant Russian boxer, a substantial amount of diamonds, and an acid-head physicist creating the ‘god particle’ in a secret laboratory… what more could I ask for? Though, sadly, Tony Krantz’ The Big Bang simply misses the mark: the plot mostly stays within the confines of detective genre conventions and its attempts at Lebowski-ness fall flat without strong characters to occupy the psychedelic moments. The film follows Antonio Banderas, our disillusioned private detective, on his search to find a missing stripper for a giant Russian boxer who loves her, but Banderas simply does not play the part well: he lacks the devil-may care charm that a broken-down but morally uncorruptable cinema PI needs. Banderas’ miscasting or poor performance, not sure which is the main cause, hinders the whole film as every other character is onscreen for a scene or two, leaving him to carry the film to its conclusion. Banderas, known for his charm, is somehow unbearably flat here: while great cinematic detectives appear disoriented and disillusioned they are strong willed and charismatic and always in the know, yet Banderas’ detective just goes through the motions and seems to fall ass-first into the ending. Sam Elliott, who appears as The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, provides the finest of the brief supporting roles as the acid-crazed physicist trying to recreate the moment of The Big Bang, but his entrance comes as too little too late. Elliott’s role also highlights the films biggest missed opportunity: the cosmic weirdness of his experiments playing against Banderas’ basic PI love story builds nicely and seems headed for an interesting take on the “two cases are actually one” detective story trope. Instead, the third act grazes over Elliott’s character and what his experiment actually does, opting for a basic action scene and easy conclusion rather than taking a dive into the psychedelic weirdness Elliott’s character seemed to promise. To that end, the The Big Bang has some interesting visuals: Krantz often creates a warm psychedelic environment with the purple skies and glowing objects. Yet, the idea of the style is often better than the execution, which looks cheap and overdone for the most part.
Bottom Line: The Big Bang is not without its merits, but it is also obvious why this movie has remained off the radar. Krantz tries for some Lewowski-ness here, but without strong characters to distract from the meaningless plot this is just an underwhelming genre exercise. Though, it does make me excited to see PT Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s fascinating and well-crafted psychedelic detective novel Inherent Vice.