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Panic [Import]

William H. Macy , Neve Campbell , Henry Bromell    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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When Sarah (Neve Campbell) strikes up a conversation with a sad-eyed man called Alex (William H. Macy) at her therapist's office, she asks, "Are you one of those middle-aged guys who's tired of his marriage and thinking maybe a beautiful young thing could help him out?" She's right, but the source of Alex's depression is far from typical: he's a second-generation hit man who wants out, but his mom and dad won't let him quit.

Donald Sutherland makes Alex's laconic and utterly monstrous father the most frightening parent since John Huston in Chinatown. A series of flashbacks show how he introduced Alex to his trade, beginning with shooting squirrels in the woods. We never find out whether Alex's father has mob connections, and the fact that it's just a business to him ("This one's a big job, lots of moola, I'll buy your mother a Lexus") makes him all the more chilling. Alex's mother (the steely Barbara Bain) knows all about the family business, but his wife (Tracey Ullman) thinks he runs a mail-order company, and the only person he confides in is a therapist (John Ritter). When he meets and falls for Sarah, Alex realizes that he alone can stand up to his father, and he needs to act before his own son becomes the next apprentice.

Henry Bromell's debut film as a writer-director probes the same dark corners of the middle-aged male psyche as American Beauty and The Sopranos. Alex's tormented life is a symbol of the damage that parents can inflict on their children, and Bromell imbues his story with a tragic inevitability. Panic received a shamefully limited theatrical release, in spite of its rare combination of a great script and brilliant performances. It deserves to be rediscovered and appreciated by a much larger audience on home video. --Simon Leake

Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sins of the Father ... May 31 2004
What a find this movie was. Subtle, tense, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny and ultimately satisfying.
A hit-man wants out of the family business, and in to the pants of Neve Campbell. Which, I suppose, makes him a murderer and a philanderer. Not that you'll feel anything but empathy and compassion for William H. Macy's character: which, of course, is his genius.
In a story that explores, among other things, the whole family dynamic - from the damage our parents do us, to the effort needed to make a marriage succeed - you'll find it all rings true. The context of the story is alien and exotic, but the relationships aren't. Your father is probably not a controlling and manipulative sociopath (and, you know, small mercies and all that ...) but even so, how many of us would find it easy to step up and admonish him, when he steps over the line?
Donald Sutherland's performance as the sociopathic pater is astonishingly good. He actually had me shouting at the screen. And I'm British. We just don't do that ...
Give this movie a go. You won't find the experience entirely comfortable, nor will it be an escape from the rigours of the world (because there's too much of the world in the movie) but it will make you laugh, wince, cheer and, most importantly of all, it will make you think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars symbolic Feb. 11 2004
By Bob
There is a scene in the middle of the movie when Alex takes his son to see his grandfather, who has bought him a birthday present. It is the most interesting scene of the movie, and the heart from which everything else should radiate. It is the only time that Alex, his father, and his son are all onscreen at the same time and you realize that this is the conflict that is killing Alex -- he is his father's son, cynical, secretive, and ruthless, but he is also equally his son's father -- innocent, curious, and affectionate. Framed that way, both his father and his son can be seen as reflections of his own psyche. The reason why he is so blank, so tired and depressed, is that they cancel each other out. By then end of that scene I knew how the movie had to end.
The side story involving Neve Campbell isn't very interesting.
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Anyone who likes character-driven movies should take a chance with this fine film!
A professional killer (played brilliantly by Bill Macy) is at a crossroads in his life as his own young son has reached the age when he himself was indoctrinated by his father to bottle his emotions and start shooting at squirrels, an activity that ended in him adopting the family business of paid assassinations.
That predicament is intriguing in itself, but handled as professionally as the film does, it is absolutely riveting. The dialogue is sharp and smart, and this relatively short film nevertheless has the power to elicit a full range of emotions from the viewer. There are places to laugh, to be shocked, horrified, saddened, aroused, angry, and to love. A wholesome treat.
It is an actor's movie, and the ensemble of terrific artists -- Macy, Neve Campbell, Ullman, and Ritter -- play off each other like members of a top-notch theatrical troupe, who realize that a quality product requires each actor to support the others unselfishly. Barbara Bain and Donald Sutherland -- who play father and mother -- are positive chilling, discussing the "family business" as if it were a grocery store or a dry cleaners. And remarkably, there's Sammy (David Dorfman), the young boy, who turns in an absolutely stunning performance, not to mention his uncanny resemblance to Ullman, whose son he plays! Great cast selection.
Watch this masterpiece if you get a chance! This is stuff you'd even want to own.
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2.0 out of 5 stars To be viewed with calm detahcment. Nov. 17 2002
By A Customer
Henry Bromell's *Panic* copiously illustrates that the concept of having a hitman or Mafia kingpin or maniacal serial killer or whatever attend therapy sessions is becoming a very tired one, indeed. Hey screenwriters -- please. No more, OK? Here, William H. Macy is a suburban Everyman who happens to whack people for a living. The "hook" is that his own father (Donald Sutherland in a very flashy performance) got him into the business. Sutherland still provides Macy with "jobs", and the next man on the hit-list happens to be Macy's own therapist. Somehow, Macy's wife has no idea what he really does for a living; she thinks he operates a home-based mail-order business. (What woman would take such little interest in her husband's business affairs as to be fooled by such a story? Perhaps Macy locks her in the bathroom for most of the day.) Needless to say, this is all mightily unrealistic. Of more interest is the hitman's infatuation with a fellow patient (Neve Campbell) in his therapist's waiting room, but this sub-plot comes to nothing much. So forget the story; the main pleasure here will be watching William H. Macy work. He's really, really good, as usual . . . but even so, the pedestrian dialogue constrains him a bit. There's been a lot of moaning and groaning that this film was "criminally overlooked", that it fell victim to bad marketing. Well, having seen it, I can safely say: no big loss.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Decidedly different, definately dark. A real find! March 16 2002
Making a movie is a very risky business. Of the several hundred films that get a theatrical release every year, perhaps just one in three makes a profit. Many hundreds more don't get released at all, although some of these are lucky enough to go direct to video. I love to alert people to great but overlooked movies, and Panic is one of them.
Alex [William H. Macy] is having a mid-life crisis. Without telling his friends or family, he goes to a psychologist for help. When the doctor asks him what he does for a living, Alex replies that he has two jobs. He has a mail order business, and he works for his father. When the shrink asks what he does for Dad, he says that he kills people. Yes, dear old Dad runs a hit man service. And Alex wonders why he feels empty inside! Meanwhile, in the doctor's waiting room, he meets Sarah [Neve Campbell], a strange, desolate and beautiful girl who makes Alex feel alive for the first time in a months. How will Alex solve his crisis? What role will the girl play? Will his wife find out his true profession? Can his twisted father persuade him to go through with the next hit?
What a dumb plot, some of you are thinking, and in lesser hands, it would be. Director and writer Henry Bromell cleverly gives the tale richness and depth. There are several layers to it. Alex may be a bad man in many ways, but loves his wife and his relationship with his young son, played by the extraordinary David Dorfman, is caring and genuine. Their scenes together are poignant and memorable. I suspect that the story is meant to be allegorical. The hit man theme is there to show the extraordinary lengths a sons can go to please his father, no matter how cruel and ruthless that father might be. Even the most dysfunctional family can have unbreakable bonds and twisted loyalties.
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