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Movie review: 'The Big Bang'

May 12, 2011

Self-conscious genre moves are probably inevitable in a film billed as "neo-noir." "The Big Bang" lines up the usual suspects, from the world-weary gumshoe and unwholesome cops to the femme fatale and big, lovelorn galoot. Even with Antonio Banderas leading a cast of familiar faces, the movie never rises above a style-over-substance exercise.

Screenwriter Erik Jendresen attempts to update the borrowed elements with a heavy dose of quantum physics and atomic science, and director Tony Krantz uses saturated candy colors to cast the proceedings in a surreal glow. The visual scheme, if not the premise, starts to jell in New Mexico-set (and Spokane, Wash.-shot) scenes. Los Angeles private eye Ned Cruz (Banderas) has driven through a neon dream desert in search of a missing person he's not sure exists. The filmmakers, meanwhile, lean on his voice-over narration to propel the story.

The big ideas on tap conflate one man's fantasy girl with another's mission to locate the so-called God particle. Metaphysics meets cheese, and the corpses pile up, with obligatory glimpses of the underbelly -- porn, drugs, the mob -- and cameos by Snoop Dogg, James Van Der Beek and Bill Duke. Sam Elliott gets to chew the brightly hued scenery in a key supporting role, and Autumn Reeser injects some welcome energy as an aura-reading waitress.

Bookending it all is Cruz's interrogation by the good/bad/indifferent police trio of Delroy Lindo, William Fichtner and Thomas Kretschmann. Despite the collective acting talent in that room, this case feels cold from the get-go.

-- Sheri Linden

"The Big Bang." MPAA rating: R for some strong sexual content, nudity, violence and language. Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

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