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Gangster malice shuffles along in ‘The Big Ugly’

Gangster malice shuffles along in ‘The Big Ugly’

MOVIE REVIEW

“THE BIG UGLY”

Rated R. Available on Video on Demand

Grade: C+

There’s a whole bundle of no-good, rifle-toting West Virginia locals who have to be kept in line in “The Big Ugly,” which waxes mightily about loyalty as, one by one, the large cast meets their maker.

Narrated by Vinnie Jones (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) and focused on his vengeance-driven London gangster Neelyn, “The Big Ugly” is a contemporary gangster saga with laundered money, oil exploration of pristine forests and lots and lots of flashbacks.

Those reflective moments explain the ties that bind — until they break — in a multigenerational stew.

Neelyn has come to redneck country via private jet (of course) with his beloved Fiona (Lenora Crichlow), a beautiful Black woman many years younger.

Neelyn is the protégé of Macolm McDowell’s Harris, a once mighty ganglord who should retire. They are visiting if hardly bonding with Preston (Ron Perlman, who co-produces), the Big Guy running the gang who delights in demonstrating he’s in charge.

That means he’s introduced ripping a Confederate flag down from his workers’ truck and lecturing them on who exactly deserves their respect, which is certainly not losers: “You want to fly a flag? Go win something.”

If this were Shakespeare, both Preston and Harris would be tragic figures instead of self-loathing crooks who have, through murder and extortion, amassed a fortune.

Both dote on their sons although Neelyn technically is not a blood relative.

Most of the posturing and violence here revolves around the rotten, sadistic, entitled breadcrumb Junior (Brandon Sklenar), who is Preston’s only son and basically a blight on planet Earth protected by his daddy’s minions.

Dad however will do everything to protect this walking sleaze, which sets up most of the conflicts in “The Big Ugly.”

As Preston explains in one of the film’s way too many explanations and digressions, “I need someone to be his brains — and a protector for my son.”

It’s not a job with longevity. But as his consigliere (Bruce McGill) tells Neelyn, “Preston has only three things that matter to him: Family. Honor. And oil. In that order. Your girl has gone missing and you are looking for answers — and they might lead to Junior.”

Which would be too bad – not for Junior but Neelyn.

While this mostly predictable, molasses-paced enterprise is called “The Big Ugly,” it looks splendid with Jeremy Osbern’s often striking visual compositions.

If only writer-director Scott Wiper (“The Cold Light of Day”) had managed something equally striking with his plotting.

(“The Big Ugly” is dedicated to Jones’ late wife, Tanya. She died July 6, 2019.)

Published at Fri, 31 Jul 2020 10:16:05 +0000