Love, loyalty, money, sex, greed, business, and bloodshed are in the mix and make up writer/director Scott Wiper’s The Big Ugly, a 2020 action film streaming on July 31st.
The film begins with a voiceover by Neelyn (Vinnie Jones), an enforcer and right-hand man to London’s biggest mobster, Harris (Malcolm McDowell). He’s thinking about the factors that cause a man to go to war as they travel on a private jet to West Virginia where Harris will invest in an oil deal as a means to launder dirty money.
They meet up with Harris’ long-time friend and oilman, Preston (Ron Perlman), to finalize the deal. Afterward, everyone goes out to celebrate at a local dive bar. Neelyn gets both drunk and high, ultimately passing out back at his hotel room.
The next morning when Harris wakes Neelyn so they can return to London, Neelyn realizes his girlfriend, Fiona (Lenora Crichlow), has disappeared. In his search to find her, Neelyn discovers she was last seen drinking with Preston’s wayward and dangerous son, Junior (Brandon Sklenar). When he finds Fiona’s dead body abandoned in the woods, Neelyn sets out to get retribution and kill Junior, putting the new deal between Harris and Preston at great risk.
Written and directed by Scott Wiper (The Condemned, A Better Way to Die), The Big Ugly is a modern-day Western with a strong cast and some breathtaking footage of the countryside. Unfortunately, it gets bogged down by too many monologues and pointless subplots.
Malcolm McDowell and Ron Perlman deliver the best performances in the film as mobsters in the twilight of their lives looking for that one last big deal which neither clearly needs at this point in their successful criminal careers. They’re men who live their lives with a certain code and ideas of honor.
Vinnie Jones is solid as Neelyn, an over-the-hill mob enforcer determined to avenge his girlfriend’s death no matter what the cost. The problem with his character is he’s basically one-dimensional, transitioning from being a loyal thug for Harris to a revenge-seeking killer. There’s almost no growth to his character except in the last act of the film and by then it feels forced.
One of the major problems with The Big Ugly is the pacing which is slow and tedious. The overly long and drawn-out scenes of Neelyn thinking back about Fiona and spending time in the dive bar to confront Junior seem to move the story along at a snail’s pace. The movie’s also crammed with unnecessary, longwinded, and stilted monologues, especially by Perlman’s character.
Ultimately, The Big Ugly is a revenge action B-movie with too little action and way too many speeches.
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout, some sexual content and brief drug use
Release Date: July 31, 2020
Running Time: 105 minutes
Studio: Vertical Entertainment