Panic

"Excellent"

Panic Review


A brilliantly observant, darkly humorous and immaculately acted movie about an average suburban father in the throes of a midlife crisis, "Panic" bears an vague, off-kilter resemblance to "American Beauty" in style and subject.

Its central character is a meek and neurotic man in his 40s (William H. Macy) whose growing fixation with a sexually conflicted nymph (Neve Campbell) half his age is turning his life upside-down. The two films share a similar dysfunctional domesticity as well, and a crisp but sparse visual elegance with just a pinch of excess color.

But Alex (Macy), the sympathetic anti-hero of "Panic," has a much bigger secret than his newfound temptation for a younger woman. Alex is a hit man -- and he's just not sure he's comfortable in that line of work anymore.

First-time writer-director Henry Bromell creates an utterly original spectacle of severely tweaked normalcy in this deft and surprising, character-driven picture. He begins to plumb Alex's psyche through the character's hesitant visits to a shrink (John Ritter). These therapy sessions open doors to memories of Alex's childhood, dominated by a surly, domineering father (Donald Sutherland) who steered him into "the family business" at a very young age and continues to hold sway over most of his life.

Alex finds little comfort on the psychologist's couch, but he continues to make appointments and root around in his anxieties because every time he's there, he runs into a beautiful, impudent girl named Sarah (Campbell) in the waiting room. They quickly form an antagonistic-romantic friendship, distinguished by the fact that Sarah can see right through her new admirer.

"Are you one of those middle-aged guys who's tired of his marriage and thinks maybe a beautiful young thing could help him out?" she asks point blank on their second encounter, making Alex very nervous because he's asking himself the same thing.

The big complication in "Panic" comes when Alex gets his next assignment from his father: Kill the shrink. Even though he kept his therapy a secret, he soon realizes this is no coincidence, and it begins to tear at his conscience enough that Alex may become emboldened for the first time in his life.

But the plot is largely a vessel here. It's the complexity of the characters and the cast of actors giving uniformly career-topping performances that make this movie so thoroughly compelling.

Macy maintains an awesome balance between being an adoring father and husband, a skilled professional killer, a middle-aged man miserably stuck in a rut, and a acquiescent milksop who has never learned to stand up to his old man. When he and Sutherland are on screen together, Macy shrinks like he's still the 10-year-old boy we see coached into killing his first squirrel with daddy's Walther PPK in one of the film's many enlightening and perfectly tuned flashbacks.

Sutherland is extraordinary as well, giving his character shades of fatherly devotion while subtly playing on his son's engrained apprehension with corrosive, imposingly deliberate emotional detachment and his designs on taking his adolescent grandson under his wing.

The boy is played by young David Dorfman ("Bounce"), who gives as good a performance as any of the adults, playing Alex's intelligent, perceptive son with an inquisitive insightfulness far beyond his years. Some of the movie's best scenes are simple moments as Alex tucks his boy into bed while addressing the kid's endless assault of metaphysical questions, not the least of which is, "Dad, are you OK?"

Campbell's character is much more than just a plot device, and she rises to the occasion with a surprisingly nuanced portrayal of a sassy-on-the-outside girl hiding a lot of internal strife that she's smart enough to recognize as personal pollen for father figure types.

And since I haven't fit her in anywhere else, let me just mention Tracey Ullman, who is flawless in a complete departure from screwball comedy as Alex's troubled wife.

"Panic" is in limited release, playing in the San Francisco Bay Area in December 2000 and in other major markets starting in January 2001. Keep an eye out for it. This is one you don't want to miss.



Panic

Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 26th April 2001

Distributed by: Roxie Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 51 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Neil (as Rod Rowland), as Josie, Alexander Enberg as Cain, as Walter

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.