Projections - Movie Reviews

Panic Panic

Finally a national release has been given to Panic, a film so biting in its dark humor and insight into its characters it disproves the jinx that the Sundance Film Festival bestows on small pictures poorly received in a test screening at Park City, Utah.

This is William H. Macy's finest effort on the big screen and certainly Neve Campbell's most involving characterization ever playing a troubled young woman who has insight into Macy's personal crisis, a hit man who wants out.

Leaking into Panic is a suppressed hatred from a tormented past, recalls elements of lauded recent films such as Affliction, American Beauty, and The Sixth Sense.  Macy's Alex deludes his wife Martha (Tracey Ullman) into thinking he's into a mail order enterprise, but now, in his 40's it is time to stop because he doesn't want to harm his loving relationship with son Sammy (David Dorfman).  He was brought by his father Michael (Donald Sutherland) into the family business and hasn't been able to break away.  Macy finely understates his edginess, with a rugged courage that may exceed his persuasive portrayal of a quietly desperate car salesman in the bleak Fargo.

From killing squirrels as a kid, Alex's soul has become more wounded and his attempts to hide this in his work as a killer reveals the impact of Michael's unwavering leverage over him.  A deep mental anguish plagues the successful contract eliminator and the strong dialogue is felt as Campbell's alluring, intelligent Sarah starts a complex appealing relationship with Alex.

Director Henry Bromell slyly and cogently lets us enter the door into Alex's existence, ripe with shaded moments that can be humorous, even heartfelt.  The exchanges between Macy and Campbell have a contrasting sexual dynamic.  While he seeks a form of redemption and has extended bedtime discussions with Sammy, his father has another grim task for him that is emotionally knotting.

Sutherland is as creepy and despicable as he has ever been and Ullman projects serious undertones to a quirky wife.  Dorfman is perceptive in realizing that his dad feels much pain from within, and Panic becomes a thoroughly enveloping observation of the psyche which richly blossoms from secrets and lies.


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