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
The boy who plays Sammy, the hit man's son, is about the cutest thing I've ever seen! He's just darling! Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2004 by Lovely
Ok, it stars out kind of slow for about the first 15 minutes. After that you get this highly intriguing story about a seemingly normal guy (William H. Read morePublished on Feb. 9 2003
All fans of masterful acting should take a gander at "Panic". A little-seen gem that initially seems to be a part of the ever-expanding "criminal and his... Read morePublished on Jan. 1 2003 by M J Heilbron Jr.
This movie has two absolute highlights:
First one is William H. Macy as Alex. His feeling of exemption in the end is so obvious and touching. Read more
I wasn't totally sure what to expect when I rented this movie. I was browsing the shelves, and this one had caught my eye several times. Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2002 by Mike Slembrouck