Ashley Judd finds her comfort zone in ‘Missing’

Larry d. horricks/abc
In the ABC series “Missing,’’ Ashley Judd plays an ex-CIA agent who makes use of her past training and contacts while searching for her kidnapped son.

Remember when Ashley Judd used to make competent thrillers about scrappy, resourceful women?

Fast forward one of those women to the present, hand her a Eurail pass and a son who has been kidnapped, and you’ve got “Missing,’’ which premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. on Channel 5.

The twist here is that Judd’s character, Becca Winstone, may be a PTA member in good standing, but she’s also a former CIA agent.


Over the phone, she listens in horror as her husband, Paul, who is also with the agency, comes to a fiery end as her young son watches, and she immediately retires. (The good news is the great Sean Bean, of “Game of Thrones’’ and “Lord of the Rings’’ fame - and an actor who has often come to an untimely end onscreen - plays Paul and will be seen in flashbacks going forward.)

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So 10 years later, when baddies of an unknown origin nab a now 18-year-old Michael (Nick Eversman) on the streets of Rome, Becca’s not just going to file a missing persons report and wait for the police to investigate.

Nope, she is going to leave her quiet life running a flower shop with her friend Mary (Aunjanue Ellis) behind, and go outside the law. She will tap contacts from long ago - including a former Italian lover and Interpol agent (Adriano Giannini) - handily disarm assassins, hack into security systems, engage in some righteous hand-to-hand combat, and zoom through Italy and France on high-speed scooter chases.

It also appears that she will emphatically shout things at no-nonsense CIA honcho Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis) when he tries to question her unorthodox methods. When he threatens to take her passport and cut off all transportation she barks, “I’ll swim!’’ For you see, Becca is going to find her son.

If the kidnappers are sympathetic to steely resolve, trembling-chin acting, and the ability to issue threats in multiple languages, Michael should feel confident that he’ll be safe in no time. Or at least by the end of the series’ first-season, 10-episode order.


Judd, a welcome presence back on television, gives her all and then some to “Missing,’’ which moves quickly, looks good - often shot on location in Europe - but rarely aspires to more than thriller formula. She convincingly pulls off the fight scenes, provides an emotional anchor, and even manages to inject traces of humor and charm in between moments of having to furrow her brow at her smartphone or monitor while spouting taglines like, “I am not CIA! I am a mother, looking for her son!’’

Curtis gets to look frazzled-yet-authoritative while shooting “I’m going to regret this’’ faces at Judd; Giannini gets to hand Judd weapons and money and wash her back; and Eversman gets roughed up.

It may not be groundbreaking, but for Judd fans, “Missing’’ isn’t the worst way to lose an hour.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at