There was a time when Ashley Judd seemed poised to take on, if not great roles, then at least interesting ones. Her 1993 breakthrough in the delicate drama Ruby in Paradise suggested that she could go far in films that called for vulnerable young women with steely underpinnings. Instead she strayed into mediocre thrillers (Kiss the Girls, High Crimes) that not even Morgan Freeman's dignified presence could salvage.
In Bug, an overwrought psychodrama directed by William Friedkin, Judd's acting continues to surpass her career choices. Playing a vaguely unstable barmaid living in a seedy Oklahoma motel, she convincingly juggles an abusive husband (a bulked-up Harry Connick Jr) and a newfound lover (Michael Shannon), who sees creepy-crawlies in the mattress and conspiracies everywhere.
Adapted by Tracy Letts from his 2004 play, Bug builds momentum from Michael Grady's agitated camera movements and Judd's increasingly distressed face. Friedkin has always been more fascinated by the evil inside our heads than the boogeyman outside, and he knows how to turn small spaces - like the bedroom in The Exorcist - into horrific theaters of war.
The escalating hysteria and grisly set pieces of Bug may strain credulity, but Judd has never been more believable as a woman condemned to attract the wrong kind of man.
DIRECTED BY: William Friedkin
STARRING: Ashley Judd (Agnes White), Michael Shannon (Peter Evans), Lynn Collins (R.C.), Brian F. O'Byrne
(Dr Sweet), Harry Connick Jr (Jerry Goss)
RUNNING TIME: 102 MINUTES
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY