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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/10/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

Intense, gripping and ultimately disturbing thriller with stunning performances from Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon.

What's it all about?
Based on the acclaimed off-Broadway play by Tracy Letts, Bug stars Ashley Judd as Agnes, a lonely waitress who lives in a motel room. When her violent ex-husband (Harry Connick Jnr) gets out of jail and comes looking for her, Agnes finds unexpected protection in the form of Pete (Michael Shannon), an enigmatic, slightly weird drifter she's only just met.

Pete and Agnes begin an intense, mutually dependent relationship, seemingly without ever leaving Agnes' motel room. Unfortunately, Pete turns out to be several coupons short of a toaster and it isn't long before Agnes is sharing his delusion that their room is full of bugs.

The Good
The performances are astonishing. Michael Shannon (World Trade Center) reprises his role from the stage production and gives an incredibly physical, deeply disturbing performance that is genuinely terrifying to watch. Ashley Judd (who uglies up for the role, Charlize Theron-style) is equally good - the scene where she reveals her traumatic past is heartbreaking.

Filming almost entirely in the one room, director William Friedkin creates an intense, claustrophobic atmosphere that works brilliantly, ramping up the tension to a practically unbearable level. The effect is heightened still further by the bizarre, unsettling set design and lighting in the third act.

The Bad
Though impressively staged, the horror scenes (largely involving self-mutilation on Shannon's part) rely too heavily on gore effects, when the film would have been just as effective without them. As it is, they are definitely not for the squeamish, particularly the teeth-pulling scene (don't ask).

In addition, the play's stage origins are painfully obvious, to the point where Friedkin might as well have inserted captions with act changes written on them.

Worth seeing?
Bug is a gripping, brilliantly acted, and superbly directed thriller. It's also William Friedkin's best film since The Exorcist. Recommended.

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Content updated: 15/12/2019 15:47

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