Lying somewhere between the world of Analyze This and The Sopranos is Panic, a thoughtful new film from Henry Bromell. It's easy to show violence for no reason at all for movies. Watch any movie and it is obvious that filmmakers take advantage of this. It is much harder to show the consequences of violence or how it affects one's psyche. Alex (William. H. Macy, Magnolia, State and Main) is going through a mid-life crisis. He has an overbearing father, does not know if he still loves his wife, has a crush on a younger woman, and, oh yeah, has a second job as a hitman.

Alex's father Michael (Donald Sutherland, Space Cowboys, The Art of War) brought him into 'the family business.' They take accept contracts to kill people, with Alex as the triggerman. However, Alex is beginning to tire of this. He wants something different, but does not know what. He reluctantly begins seeing Dr. Josh Parks (John Ritter, Bride of Chucky, TripFall), and meets Sarah (Neve Campbell, Drowning Mona, Scream 3) in the waiting room. He is smitten with her. She is completely unlike him, and he begins going to therapy primarily to engage her in idle conversation.

Bromell also imbues Panic with a strangely dark sense of humor. There are moments in the film when you feel like laughing, although it seems wrong to do so. Macy is not a conventionally good-looking man, and he uses this to his advantage in his movie roles. He looks like a perfectly normal man, not an assassin. His problems are perfectly normal, and they are ruining his life. For nearly the length of the move, he seems resigned to the fact that his life sucks. His wife Martha (Tracey Ullman, Small Time Crooks, I'll Do Anything) does not know what to do either. Alex refuses to discuss things deeply with her, preferring to internalize everything. He is even timid toward Sarah, who views him as exceedingly polite. Alex is caught between a world of crime and his legal business, and between Sarah and Martha.

Alex hates his life, but does not realize this. He does not know anything else either, so there really is no alternative for him. Bromell attacks this problem slowly, letting the tension ooze into Alex's life. Therapy does not help, and when Alex gets his next assignment from Michael, things only get worse. Honestly, nothing much happens in Panic. Panic is almost a misnomer, since Bromell constructs Alex as such a stoic person. This pacing allows viewers a nearly complete portrait of Alex as a person. Bromell explores elements of Alex's past, and also how things have a way of repeating themselves. It is easy to understand Alex and to sympathize with his actions. So while there may not be a lot of action, Panic is still an engrossing experience.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated R for language and elements of violence.

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