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  • Nate Adams

Reviews: Muscles and mayhem reign in silly vengeance thriller 'The Big Ugly'

Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment


With a title like “The Big Ugly,” it’s almost too easy to poke fun, but this vengeance thriller starring the hulky Vinnie Jones is a macho and gritty delight.

Featuring supporting turns from Malcom McDowell, Nicholas Braun (Cousin Greg from “Succession”), and Ron Perlman, “The Big Ugly” is a fever dream of action stars from the past and present and isn’t afraid to wear its cheesy dialogue, stylized violence, and hard rock soundtrack on its sleeve. We know this is junk food cinema, you just have to decide how much you’re willing to indulge.

The focus lies with Jones's Neelyn, a tough as nails Brit who's the muscle for an upright bureaucratic gangster Harris (McDowell). The two of them - along with a pair of lovely ladies - have arrived in West Virginia to help close a money-laundering deal with crooked Sheriff Preston (Perlman) - whose character is very outspoken about his hatred of the confederate flag - but the deal goes sour when Neelyn suspects Preston’s abusive and maniacal son (Brandon Sklenar - a villainous treat) has murdered his girlfriend, Fiona (Lenora Crichlow).

The results of writer-director Scott Wiper’s homage to the western genre is contrived, yes, but also tons of bootlicking fun. And maybe that’s because decent low-grade action flicks are hard to come by (2003’s “Walking Tall” comes to mind) and the expectation for something like “The Big Ugly” is that it’s terrible. To an extent it’s not good, although the cast - especially Jones and Sklenar - amp up the violence to extreme lengths and the bare knuckle beatdowns are a treat, suggesting Wiper isn’t totally out of his element.

Of course, the female characters are tossed aside, Jones and his brute force presences can seem laughable and the plot is so flimsy, you could poke it with a stick and it’ll deflate. On the other hand, it’s also fun and silly in the most obnoxious way possible. Seeing McDowell and Perlman engage in a western standoff is something I’d never dream of checking off my cinematic bucket list.

Not so ugly after all.

Grade: B-

THE BIG UGLY opens in select drive-ins and virtual cinemas on July 24rh and lands on VOD/DIGITAL July 31st.


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