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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
A psychology lesson with tacked on scenes necessary to elicit an emotional response. Some plot points were predictable and others were unlikely and included to add arbitrary... Read morePublished 27 days ago by parker
a different kind of movie with excellent performances although maybe a little disturbing. not your usual movie theme. great actorsPublished 15 months ago by dj4696
Sorry to all of my William Macy fans, but the movie did not make it for me. It just was not my cup of tea. I found it slow, not well written and just a let down. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Rocky
A great psychological drama, with the tension building slowly. Alex is a middle-aged man, tired of everything, 'dead inside'. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Mieleoffski
Multiple plot twists evoking moral choices.
Spoiler alert - sorta - son emerges in film noir ending.
Was a tear evoked?
It's a "bait & switch" - one expects any of a number of genre(s) but gets something entirely different. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Dennis Lebbin
I like the actors, and they do a good job with what they have. I just didn't think there was much for them to work with.Published 21 months ago by Walter Marx