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105 customer reviews

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(Jun 19, 2001)
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Editorial Reviews

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

Special Features

  • Deleted footage

Product Details

  • Actors: William H. Macy, Neve Campbell, John Ritter, Donald Sutherland, Tracey Ullman
  • Directors: Henry Bromell
  • Writers: Henry Bromell
  • Producers: Andrew Lazar, Carol S. Trussel, David Cooper, Glenn S. Gainor, Jody Hedien
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Live / Artisan
  • DVD Release Date: June 19, 2001
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005AA9G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,072 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Panic" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 20, 2001
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you're a fan of William Macy, this is a must-see film. I think it is one of his finest roles, showcasing his ability to convey emotional complexity without being overly dramatic or over the top. In this film, he plays a hitman who is becoming increasingly tormented by being part of the family business, a business which just happens to be murder for hire, disposing of unwanted people for a hefty fee. The business is headed by Alex's father, played to psychotic perfection by Donald Sutherland, a man who is relentless in his determination to make Alex do his will. Tormented by the idea that his young son might follow his own path, Alex decides to see a psychiatrist (John Ritter). Neve Campbell, cast against type (for those of us who remember her in Scream) does a superb job playing a troubled young woman who encounters Alex in the psychiatrist's waiting room, eventually entering into an affair with him. I won't say more about the major events in this film but hope this brief intro intrigues you enough to want to see it. Although I plan to watch this one again and again, I do have to say this might not be for you if you want a movie full of non-stop action, suspense and violence. The drama here is mostly psychological, intense enough in its own way, but far different from that of an action film.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on February 26, 2002
Format: DVD
The effects of job related stress and the pressures born of a moral dilemma that pits conscience against the obligations of a family business (albeit a unique one) all brought to a head by-- or perhaps the catalyst of-- a midlife crisis, are examined in the dark and absorbing drama, "Panic," written and directed by Henry Bromell, and starring William H. Macy and Donald Sutherland. It's a telling look at how indecision and denial can bring about the internal strife and misery that ultimately leads to apathy and that moment of truth when the conflict must, of necessity, at last be resolved.
Alex (Macy) is tired; he has a loving wife, Martha (Tracey Ullman), a precocious six-year-old son, Sammy (David Dorfman), a mail order business he runs out of the house, as well as his main source of income, the "family" business he shares with his father, Michael (Sutherland), and his mother, Deidre (Barbara Bain). But he's empty; years of plying this particular trade have left him numb and detached, putting him in a mental state that has driven him to see a psychologist, Dr. Josh Parks (John Ritter). And to make matters worse (or maybe better, depending upon perspective), in Dr. Parks' waiting room he meets a young woman, Sarah Cassidy (Neve Campbell), whose presence alone makes him feel alive for the first time since he can remember. She quickly becomes another brick in the wall of the moral conflict his job has visited upon him, as in the days after their meeting he simply cannot stop thinking about her. His whole life, it seems, has become a "situation"-- one from which he is seemingly unable to successfully extirpate himself without hurting the ones he loves.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Bob on February 11, 2004
Format: DVD
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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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 6, 2004
Format: DVD
Alex (William Macy) needs to see a therapist. He is a hit man and wants to give up his job. The problem is this is a family business, although we are never told if this is part of the Mafia or a private business- the latter, I think. Anyway, in the waiting room, Alex runs into this beautiful young thing played by Never Campbell, and they start talking. What is Alex to do? His wife thinks he runs a mail order business and what he really does is kill people. Neve Campbell's character is someone who knows nothing, an innocent young thing, just what he needs.

Alex tells the therapist about his job and his therapist (John Ritter) is upfront. If Alex tells him about a forthcoming job he will have to report it, otherwise he is protected by doctor/patient confidentiality. Alex's father is played by Donald Sutherland, and a more cold blooded man would be hard to find. We see in flashbacks how Alex was trained by his old man and his first job as that of a killer.

"Panic" is one of those movies that grab you. It is well written, the actors are marvelous and just right for their parts. I had never heard of it. It is a quiet movie that seems to have come and gone. Daniel Dorfman is Alex's son, Sammy. What a fabulous young actor he is. We realize that Alex needs to save his son, so that the next generation, Sammy, that is, will not have to become a killer. A scene that is so telling is one of Gram and Grampa browbeating Sammy. We understand how Alex became the hit man, the murderer, the killer, the confused, mixed up man he is.

Alex makes a decision to quit this job. He will confront his father and put a stop to this horrible business. And why does Alex have to support his mother and father through this killing business?
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