A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Big Ugly is a crime movie about two powerful gangsters, murder, and revenge. It's a pulpy but enjoyable B movie thriller that has lots of iffy content. There's frequent violence that includes guns and shooting, deaths, fighting, punching, kicking, and hitting with a rock. Language is extremely strong, with constant use of words such as "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "c--ksucker," and much more. A sex scene shows a woman straddling a man; there's grinding and moaning, but no explicit nudity. A character is a sex worker, and there's some kissing and sex-related talk. Characters snort cocaine, a woman is drugged in a bar, characters are described as drunk, and a secondary character is depicted as an alcoholic. There's also social drinking and cigarette smoking.
What's the story?
In THE BIG UGLY, English crime boss Harris (Malcolm McDowell) flies to West Virginia to see his old friend, oilman Preston (Ron Perlman), in hopes of striking a deal. Harris brings along his loyal lieutenant, Neelyn (Vinnie Jones), and Neelyn brings his girlfriend, Fiona (Lenora Crichlow). That night, Preston's bullying, womanizing son, Junior (Brandon Sklenar), seduces Harris' paid companion and then turns his sights on Fiona. When Fiona is later found dead, Neelyn vows to stay behind and find out what happened. Meanwhile, Junior has decided to seduce pretty bartender Kara (Leven Rambin), who's begun dating kindhearted Will (Nicholas Braun). Will works for Preston and is supposed to keep an eye on Junior. Will Junior's behavior tear apart the peace between Preston and Harris?
Is it any good?
This pulpy B-movie crime thriller gets by not only on potent casting but also on its clash between two different types of characters. It's like Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels meets Hell or High Water. Starting at the top, The Big Ugly has Perlman as a mountainous cowboy type who stops to tear down a Confederate flag and makes speeches about honoring the land ("I don't frack"). And then you've got McDowell as an elegant Englishman who's capable of terrifying with his steely stare and his raspy snarl. It's so much fun to see these two sharing scenes, and they actually feel as if their characters have a shared history.
Junior is a truly vile antagonist, bullying and oppressive toward women, and Sklenar somehow makes him believable. And speaking of women, the female characters in The Big Ugly are all pretty wise: Even though they're living in a men's world here, they refuse to be pushed around. Director and co-writer Scott Wiper does an admirable job balancing all of the characters and keeping things clear. The movie feels neither too long nor too lean. He also manages a certain appealing lightweight tone while still honoring the tragedy that Jones' character goes through. The Big Ugly may not break any new ground, but it's a colorful, enjoyable romp through the criminal underworld.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is Junior a bully? How is he dealt with? In what other ways can you handle bullies?
What's the appeal of movies about criminals and mobsters? Is it OK to enjoy them even though there aren't any positive messages?
What makes movies about revenge appealing? Does revenge solve anything?
- On DVD or streaming: September 8, 2020
- Cast: Ron Perlman, Malcolm McDowell, Leven Rambin, Vinnie Jones
- Director: Scott Wiper
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, language throughout, some sexual content and brief drug use
- Last updated: September 10, 2020
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