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Panic

3.3 out of 5 stars 472 customer reviews

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Editorial 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


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: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (472 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005AA9G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,589 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Panic" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: DVD
The "banality of evil" has long been a source of fascination for those artists exploring the dark side of human nature. Gloomy houses filled with vengeful spirits or twitching psychos hold less fear for the common man than the sudden discovery that the "people next door," the PTA member down the street, or the social director for the local church youth group are the true villains who surround us unnoticed, people whose very "normalcy" serves to mask the evil within. For only when the mask is finally ripped off and we at last get to see what we have been living next to all along do we come to realize how very tenuous is our security and safety in this world. What could be scarier than that?
In this category of works, "Panic" emerges as a genuinely chilling, emotionally unsettling psychological thriller, short on gratuitous violence and long on characterization and mood. Writer/director Henry Bromell has fashioned a dark, disturbing tale of a man named Alex (William H. Macy) who seeks the professional help of a therapist played by John Ritter. Alex's problem is a decidedly unique one: it seems that, since he's been a teen, he has served as hit man for his father (Donald Sutherland) whose mysterious, shady "business" apparently calls for the elimination of certain parties at the request of unknown "clients." Alex is a seemingly good man, devoted to his wife and son, who has somehow found a way to distance himself emotionally and morally from the heinous crimes he commits. Yet, obviously, Alex has arrived at a point of moral reckoning - for how else to explain his sudden need to unburden himself to this total stranger?
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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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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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