**/**** Image C+ Sound B+
starring Billy Bob Thornton, Patricia Arquette, William Devane, Tom Bower
written and directed by Robby Henson
by Walter Chaw Cornering the market on redneck hicks on the mend, Billy Bob Thornton stars in Robby Henson's direct-to-cable The Badge, a Louisiana cop erotica opera equal parts James Lee Burke and The Big Easy. Long on unmotivated slow-motion stretches and editing choices that are bizarre at best, the picture has ambition and atmosphere to burn but stumbles over its own pretension. A cop procedural, lovers-on-the-run intrigue, and ultra-liberal posturing share time in a lurid gumbo before a third-act reveal; the picture's rife with flashbacks and gravid pontificating that undermine the entire shooting match. Better than it should be for Thornton's remarkable ability to convey confusion and discomfort, The Badge is more an Issue movie than a whodunit--and like most movies erring on the liberal side, its strengths don't have a chance against the sloppiness of that bleeding heart on its sleeve.