Main cast: William H Macy (Alex), Neve Campbell (Sarah), Donald Sutherland (Michael), Barbara Bain (Deirdre), Tracy Ullman (Sarah), John Ritter (Dr Josh Parks), David Dorfman (Sammy), Tina Lifford (Dr Leavitt), Bix Barnaba (Louie), Nicholle Tom (Tracy), Andrea Baker (Candice), and Miguel Sandoval (Detective Larson)
Director: Henry Bromell
Midway through Henry Bromell’s debut film Panic, I know that a man wrote this story. Only a man will write about a middle-aged man dumping his dowdy, old wife for a nubile young thing that looks like Neve Campbell. And only a man would imagine that Neve Campbell will fall for a wrinkly dummy that looks like William H Macy. The stupid seven-year-itch romance is what spoils this otherwise funny, dark movie for me.
Mr Macy, always reliable, plays a hitman Alex employed by his father. Midlife crisis has him reexamining his priorities with his shrink Dr Parks. He also is attracted to this beautiful young hairdresser Sarah he meets in the clinic. But Mom and Dad just won’t let their son – and employee – quit so easily. And then there’s Alex’s son Sammy who is slowly being lured into the trade, and Alex doesn’t want that. Oh, what to do?
Well, there’s the usual complications here, including Alex being hired to kill his own shrink. I’ve seen many of these elements before in movies from such as Analyze This to Grosse Pointe Blank (criminal sees his shrink) to American Beauty (male midlife crisis goes haywire).
Nonetheless it is a well-written and acted movie. I still think though that Mr Macy a bit miscast as Alex. Alex is supposed to be cool and only now becoming emotional, but Mr Macy always seem at the brink of an emotional outburst. Dark humor abounds – when Alex wants to quit, his mother scolds him for trying to ruin a business Daddy started from the ground. How’s that for twisted families? Alex’s interactions with his son Sammy and his parents are both disturbing and funny.
The wild card here is Sarah. Then again, she’s so badly written that she plays nothing more than a trophy for Alex rather than a subsequent catalyst for his severing of his umbilical cord with his parents. If she seems unpredictable, well, that’s because I know nothing about her motives or even why she can be attracted to a middle-aged Momma-and-Daddy’s boy.
I like Panic. It’s entertaining. But if we are going to be sexist, I am going to say that I wish someone other than Mr Macy played Alex. I mean, come on, the guys have Neve Campbell. William H Macy may be a good actor, but he is nothing to shout about in the looks department. Why can’t we have, say, Pierce Brosnan?