The Big Ugly review – a boozy bonanza of blokey brutality | Film

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Although technically an “eastern” rather than a western – it unfolds in the lush hills and shady honkytonks of West Virginia – this macho, contemporary-set crime thriller feels like something that got cooked up after a bender guzzling a Sam Peckinpah box set. Maybe chased with a few British gangster pics like Get Carter and The Long Good Friday. Indeed, it plays like several plots, genres and mood boards all mashed together, which makes the end result interesting but not entirely successful.

The British end of the story is carried over via the focus on Vinnie Jones’s Neelyn, the hard-bitten, murderous muscle for slick, Perrier-drinking uber-gangster Harris (Malcolm McDowell, always a pleasure). The two of them and their respective lady friends, party girl Fiona (Lenora Crichlow) and escort Jackie (Elyse Levesque), have arrived in West Virginia to close a money-laundering deal with local oil baronet Preston (Ron Perlman). But the precarious spit-and-handshake accord is suddenly undermined when Neelyn suspects that Preston’s skeevy scumball son (Brandon Sklenar, giving in some ways the best performance here) has done something awful to Fiona.

Writer-director Scott Wiper and his associates contrive with reasonable ingenuity to arrange several showdowns that involve fisticuffs, guns or both, small-scale displays of violence that are almost quaintly portioned out in small bites. But squint a little harder at it, much like the swaggering middle-aged men of the cast who all look half-asleep much of the time, and it all starts to look like booze-soaked nonsense that romanticises practically medieval notions of honour.

The female actors, including Leven Rambin as a barmaid fought over at one point, get the crappiest deal of the lot, compelled to simper, look frightened, dry-hump the chaps and not much else. Snooze.

Source: The Guardian
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