Blu-ray Review: The Big Bang (2011)

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From surprising twists and random thoughts to character names and promising starts, writers worth their salt covet and collect creativity -- hoarding future plots in the process. Preserving their ideas in a three-ring binder or on scraps of paper in a big box, writers dig through what they’ve filed away – dreaming up imaginative new storylines out of the material that they’ve got.

And because in the world of filmmaking, the screenplay serves as the blueprint used to construct the movie, then ultimately it’s creativity alone that can strengthen or weaken the overall foundation even before a single frame is shot.

While most likely, as art as in life, rather than having too much or too little of anything, everything should be taken in moderation along with the critical caveat that when it comes to creativity, quality should always magnify quantity.

For example, the most frequent complaint in studio films is the lack of originality on display in interchangeable readymade assembly-line features – some which incorporate several rounds of writers and revisions – only to recycle the same handful of predictable commercially successful formulaic plots again and again.

Yet as epitomized by experimental independent fare on the other end of the spectrum where quirks and eccentricity reign supreme, limitless freewheeling creativity in the hands of a single writer doesn’t always provide a recipe for success.

And for the latest example of artistic madness run amok look no further than the supremely and self-consciously weird trip through trippy Film Noir that is The Big Bang.

True to the title, the Kiss Me Deadly inspired finale does boast one banging explosion that’s guaranteed to turn your screening into an impromptu Mystery Science Theater 3000 style riff-track as we watch Antonio Banderas try to drive his way out of the tacked on Disaster Movie climax.

But in the end – or rather after the film’s laughable ending – we begin sifting through the rubble of veritable four-alarm forest fire that was the feature to figure out how if it could’ve been prevented by Smokey the Screenwriting Bear.

And in doing so, it’s hard not to realize that the main blast was the result of screenwriter Erik Jendresen adding way too much creative fuel to the fire -- cramming together colorfully over-the-top characters with flammable subplots destined to ignite under pressure, literally and figuratively burning throughout Bang from start to finish.

While charismatic Spanish native Banderas was the right movie star for the job in bringing the small-screen Mexican descendant of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Robin Hood to life in the grandly entertaining big screen version of Zorro, he’s woefully miscast in the role of tough-talking sardonic private eye Ned Cruz.

Unable to get his accent around the hackneyed vintage Film Noir era dialogue, whether he’s trying to crack wise at the expense of corrupt cops or piecing together an increasingly convoluted case like a world-weary Chatty Cathy doll, narrating in the tongue-in-cheek tradition of a pulp fiction private eye icons like Mike Hammer, Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

In addition to paying overt homage to The Maltese Falcon, Laura and Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Bang borrows heavily from the library of Raymond Chandler and Farewell My Lovely in particular.

Yet even though Chandler was often guilty of losing his way in the plot to such an extent that most people haven’t a clue how to follow The Big Sleep from Point A to Point B, The Big Bang takes plot-jumping to another dimension altogether, switching genres, characters, rhythm and tone to ridiculous extremes to the point where Ned Cruz seems to be the only through-line.

While it luckily doesn’t operate on an Inland Empire level of stream-of-consciousness, Bang is more than a little influenced by the oeuvre of David Lynch, especially given that director Tony Krantz produced Lynch’s masterful Mulholland Dr..

From particle physics foreplay to the missing pen pal of an oversized Russian boxer and the love life of a dwarf to the recreation of the Big Bang to a vanished stash of diamonds along with a half dozen other plots, the slapdash film feels like Jendresen tried to incorporate every single idea he’d ever compiled in his writer’s notebook into Big’s overly-crowded 105 minute running time.

While the amount of creativity packed into the disjointed film is as admirable as it is alarming, I can’t help but wonder how much better Bang would’ve been had Jendresen taken one or two topics and run with it – hording future plots to present later, possibly in a Lynch-like TV series a la Twin Peaks, where Ned Cruz becomes this generation’s Dale Cooper… in a role that’s tailor-made for Banderas.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.