Rated 2.0

A down-and-nearly-out cocktail waitress (Ashley Judd), mourning a lost child and dreading the return of her convict husband (Harry Connick Jr.), takes in an unstable drifter (Michael Shannon) whose paranoid delusions prove somehow contagious, drawing her into a headlong race with him into utter madness. Tracy Letts’ script (based on his play) betrays its stage origins—not only in its small cast and single motel-room location, but also in its artificial construction and flashy emotional contrivances. The whole thing has the air of acting-class exercises rather than a work of real emotional resonance, but the cast—especially Judd and Shannon—rip into Letts’ pyrotechnics with fearless, even frightening, abandon. William Friedkin directs with his patented mix of fervid energy and unsubtle hammer-blows.