Plot: What’s it about?
Alex (William H. Macy) feels like he trapped within a rut, his life is not how he wishes it to be, but he feels powerless to change it. He has been married for some to his wife Martha (Tracey Ullman) and even has a young son, but his personal life is the lesser of his worries, his job is what causes him the most stress. You see, Alex has worked for his father (Donald Sutherland) since he was a teenager, but he wants to leave the business and of course, this disappoints his father, to say the very least. His father taught him the trade as a young man and in this business, it’s harder to leave than in most professions. Alex works as a hitman and he is very good at that task, but he is tired of it and in truth, never really wanted to work within that field of employment. He soon meets Sarah (Neve Campbell) in a waiting room and he takes an instant liking to her, one that seems to be returned. He thinks Sarah could be the ticket to a happier life, but with his shrink (John Ritter), his wife, and his father throwing him off base, how can Alex ever truly become satisfied with life?
I was surprised to read so much praise for this film, as Artisan dropped the theatrical distribution and they usually hold on to smaller marvels, to be sure. But as it turns out, the hype was dead on and in most cases, understated just how impressive Panic is. The storyline isn’t totally unique by any means, but it has the right elements to keep it all fresh, especially a most impressive cast of performers. William H. Macy takes the lead, with such names as Tracey Ullman, Donald Sutherland, and Neve Campbell on deck, very impressive indeed. I have to say, the ensemble acting is Panic is much better than I expected and features some dynamic performances, to be sure. The direction from Henry Bromell is also very good, while Jeffrey Jur’s cinematography is excellent, very subtle and yet powerful nonetheless. This overlooked gem deserves all the praise I read and more, as it delivers as one of the best film noirs I’ve seen in a while. I highly recommend this release and even if you’re not a noir fan, there’s plenty to like with Panic, I assure you of that.
If you ask me, the presence of William H. Macy adds to any film and that’s certainly true with Panic. I am used to seeing him in more supporting level roles, but it was a real treat to see Macy in the lead and of course, he never falters. I think the role was perfect for Macy’s persona and while it is similar in tone to some of his other turns, he adds enough fresh elements to more than compensate, if you ask me. His cool, never explosive performance is downright perfect for this role and Macy seems in top form, one of his finest efforts to date, I think. I really don’t think anyone else could have handled this character so well, very impressive work indeed. You can also see Macy in such films as Boogie Nights, State and Main, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Fargo, A Civil Action, and Magnolia. The cast also includes Neve Campbell (Wild Things, Scream), Donald Sutherland (Animal House, The Art of War), John Ritter (Bride of Chucky, Sling Blade), Miguel Sandoval (Three Businessman, Jurassic Park), and Tracey Ullman (Small Time Crooks, PrΩt-α-Porter).
Video: How does it look?
Panic is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This was a low budget picture, but you wouldn’t know it from this transfer, which looks sharp and well defined. The print used is clean and free from debris, while no compression errors can be seen. The colors have the needed brightness, but never too much so and flesh tones are natural, just as intended. No complaints with the contrast either, detail is strong from start to finish and black levels are balanced quite well also. In the end, this is a terrific presentation and one that gives a low profile movie the royal treatment it deserves.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included 2.0 surround track is more than adequate, given the film’s reliance on dialogue and low impact audio. The mix is by no means dull however, as the surrounds are used at times, just to more subtle ends, as the material demands. The music sounds great and livens up the track, while sound effects come across as intended, never forced or hollow. The main element here is dialogue however, which sounds clean and crisp here, with no complaints to report. This disc also includes a Spanish 2.0 surround option, in case you’ll need that instead.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some talent files, a selection of deleted scenes, and the film’s trailer. You can also listen to an audio commentary track with director Henry Bromell, who provides some nice insight into the film’s creation. I was let down by the various silent spaces involved, but Bromell does offer some good bits of information, to be sure. I was most interested in his discussion of the actors, but he touches on many topics, very cool indeed.