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Bug (SE)
DVD disk
Sep 27, 2007 By: Mathew Plale
Bug (SE) order
Director:
William Friedkin

Actors:
Ashley Judd
Michael Shannon
Harry Connick Jr.

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When a drug-dependent waitress (Judd) meets up with a drifter (Shannon), the two share a misguided love, bugs, and Harry Connick Jr.'s backhand.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Holed up in a shoebox somewhere on a dirty stretch of Oklahoma road is Agnes, a honky-tonk waitress with a fear of men and dependence for the pipe. Exiting the bathroom is Peter (Shannon), a stranger who’s “between addresses.” Overhearing a colloquy between Agnes (Judd, in her gutsiest role) and co-worker R.C. (Lynn Collins), he replies in defense, “I’m not an axe murderer.” And he’s not. But sometimes there are more questionable people you’d rather not share a motel with.

For the bulk of William Friedkin’s paranoiac trap Bug (based on Tracy Letts’ play, which Shannon also starred), we’re locked in this crapshack with Aggie and Peter. In and out are Aggie’s ex-husband Jerry (Connick, Jr.), a brutish ex-con, and, for the self-destructive final act, the experimental Dr. Sweet (Brian F. O’Byrne), whose twisted presence pushes the viewers’ eyes to the back of their head.

Bug (which Letts adapted for the screen) wraps its schizophrenic conspiracies tightly in tinfoil, using its lead to spring to the defense of Ted Kaczynski and the Jonestown Massacre. The best that can be said of this Nixon-Era-esque muck is that Friedkin and cinematographer Michael Grady turn the vacant words into a story that’s one of the most claustrophobic of its kind, whether videostores carry the DVD under Horror, Psychological Thriller, or “black comedy love story,” as its director has categorized it. In a way, it’s all of these at once, which is why the film works—it’s the spray of circuitous dialogue from each genre that restrains it.

However catalogued, Bug frantically builds to a final act that is so bleak, so representative of another time (with a different kind of bug), we are left yearning for the Friedkin of old. With all of its teeth pulling, Bug is an acidic trip more fitted in the oeuvre of the 1970s maverick than his more recent works. But he’s back—if only for the perishable experience.
THE EXTRAS
Audio Commentary by Director William Friedkin: The man who once was chastised by Alfred Hitchcok for not wearing a tie on-set provides more of a dull narration than the developed commentary we hoped for. See the below feature for top-notch Friedkin

A Discussion with William Friedkin (28:02): This great addition has Friedkin discussing his career (which has hosted only 15 films in over 40 years), including recurring themes and adapting for the screen. The director also compares ‘70s film to the independent movement and how cinema as a whole has changed (while slapping the MTV generation in the face). Gotta admire the guy’s passion, particularly during his Exorcist story.

Bug: An Introduction (11:50): Friedkin and the principals sit down to analyze the film, as well as discuss characters, the director’s style, and the difficulties of shooting in one location.

And a number of Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Bug was both a surprise and a long overdue slice of brilliance from Exorcist and French Connection director Friedkin. Just in time for Halloween, Bug is one to pick up for a lights out night...just don't expect the full-out horror movie that's been marketed.
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