By Laurie Coker
The Big Ugly has promise with its solid testosterone-driven cast, but it falls short in plot, creativity, and character. Writer/director Scott Wiper works hard, or so it seems, to create a film with thematic substance, but instead offers up a carbon-copy of dozens of revenge-based movies with no heart. While the cast generally gives their all, their efforts cannot salvage asinine situations and long drawn out and ultimately, meaningless monologues and narration.
Set in West Virginia on oil-rich land around a local creek known as Big Ugly, the film rolls out more like a Western than an action thriller – it centers around seedy characters and violence. We have seen the story before countless times and far more convincingly. London mobsters (Vinnie Jones and Malcolm Mcdowell) look to make an oil deal with a shady, money-laundering oilman (Ron Perlman) whose son is an utter womanizing tool. Junior (Brandon Sklenar) needs a handler to keep him out of trouble, but his handler (Nicholas Braun) fails miserably. Thus, The Big Ugly is yet another tale of the female victim and male hero only this hero, in spite of his street savvy and size, takes several butt kickings and gets captured at least twice. The protagonist never exactly succeeds.
The actors make every effort to breathe life into their roles but have limited material with which to do it. Jones brings a rugged seriousness to mobster Neelyn’s desperate quest to avenge his girlfriend Fiona’s (Lenora Crichlow) death. McDowell (Harris), provides a powerfully believable portrayal of Neelyn’s gritty gangster boss, using no more than his signature style. It is Perlman, however, who steals the show with his at times, charismatic and other times, sinister role as Preston, a shady businessman who peddles the promise of money in oil. He captivates and engages each and every he’s in a scene, but even with this and other strong performances, the film flounders in predictability and monotony. However, that’s not enough to save the film.
Ultimately, The Big Ugly is difficult to watch because it simply never engages. It lacks realism and substance and sometimes borders on the absurd. Even with their solid performances, the cast can’t rescue this film. Well, deserving of the R-rating, The Big Ugly earns a D in the grade book. Luckily, its streamable so no money lost seeing it.