Review by James Lindorf
When two of the most intimidating men in movie history, Vinnie Jones and Ron Perlman, get together with acting legend Malcolm McDowell, you can’t help but have expectations as big as a West Virginia. When you see that it is a film about oil drillers and the British mob partnering to launder money, then love, lust, and an unruly child threaten to destroy it all, the excitement ratchets up tenfold. That, in part, is what makes “The Big Ugly” a big disappointment. What could have been a great throwback to the 80’s “The Big Ugly” won’t be remembered in 4 weeks, let alone four decades.
That isn’t to say there is nothing of value in its 105 minutes. Perlman is excellent as American oilman Preston; he is the old-fashioned cowboy type, a criminal with an honor code. His opening diatribe against the confederate flag will lead to people changing the channel or rooting for him. Vinnie Jones plays the loyal British mob enforcer Neeyln, a role that, on its surface, is not exactly a stretch for the former footballer. In a move that left me a little disappointed, but could excite others, Vinnie is playing Neeyln as the 50 something man he was during filming. He is a rough and dangerous bulldog of a man, but he can’t keep up with the kids because of his age. In films like “The Expendables” or almost anything starring Liam Neeson in the last ten years, it’s not usual to see older men taking on all foes and walking away as the clear winner with a few bumps and bruises. Neelyn can take and give a punch, but at his age, he needs luck to be on his side if he has a hope of taking on Preston’s son Junior (Brandon Sklenar).
Sklenar is a bit of a newcomer but makes his presence known throughout the movie. He is a mix of spoiled brat and psychopath that combines to make the biggest bully ever seen. Sklenar expertly pulls off the cocky menace that isn’t shy about leaving bodies in his wake. He is also adept at Junior’s more sniveling moments. Junior’s actions lead to lines being drawn between family and friends and set Neelyn off on his quest retribution.
All great action movies, especially from the 80s, have one thing in common above all else, charisma. The sense of style that makes you root for the main characters and want to see them accomplish their goals or vanquish their foes no matter how ridiculous the situation. While the acting is excellent and it has all the pieces, they come together like a puzzle of a cloudy day. All the elements are here for a “Roadhouse” style clash of fists, wits, and ideals. Unfortunately, due to a lack of charisma and underwhelming action, most viewers will be left saying, I thought you’d be better. “The Big Ugly” lacks the excitement to be more than a way to pass a couple of hours one afternoon.
Available now On Demand.