The Occasional Movie Review–Now Less Occasional

I’ve said before that the best selling part of Netflix is that it recommends movies based on your ratings. So the more movies and TV shows you watch and rate, the more accurate its recommendations will be. Or so goes the theory. But I’ve got to say it’s right.


Tonight’s movie is Panic, which is one of those movies that, considering its cast, I’m not really sure how I missed it when it came out in theatres. I don’t even remember ever hearing about it when it came out in 2000. It stars William H. Macy, Donald Sutherland, John Ritter, Neve Campbell, and Tracy Ullman and claims to be a dark comedy.


It’s not. It’s a drama all the way with some humor in it to make it a little lighter. Though I suppose the setup for the story could be the part that pushes it into comedy territory.


Macy’s character is a hitman who works in the family business for his father (Sutherland). He’s unhappy with his life, unhappy with his job, and is seriously considering quitting the business, but can’t bring himself to tell his father that because his father is a fairly ruthless, mean person. In the meantime, he’s seeing a therapist (Ritter), has fallen in love with someone he meets at the therapist’s office (Campbell), and is finding his marriage to Ullman’s character to be falling apart. The only bright spot in his life is his son, but even that is starting to turn cloudy because of the person his father is and because he can’t tell his wife and son what he really does for a living.


Things really start to unravel when the business gets its latest target: the therapist. It forces Macy to make a choice that he’s unable to make because of his fear of his father: do the job or choose now as the time to quit.


I suppose you could say it’s the story of a middle-aged hitman trying to cope with being middle-aged and wondering where his life is going. And that’s basically the comedy that you’re getting: just think about what it would be like to be a hitman who hates his job.


The acting here is really good, the story is crisp and uncluttered, and the film is made simply enough to make watching it effortless. Macy is great playing a tortured soul, and honestly, I’ve never seen Tracy Ullman play a completely non-comedic role. The ending is surprising but still satisfying, and even though the film is full of violent and rough characters, it never feels like it’s unnecessary or over the top.


This is another film that I don’t need to ever see again, but was worth seeing once. By the same token, though, this is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Three out of 5 stars


See you tomorrow.