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PANIC ($25) is one of those great little independent movies that could be easily overlooked, especially since more and more blockbuster and classic titles are being released on DVD. However, with its intriguing plot and impressive performances from a rock solid cast, PANIC is a movie that deserves to be seen. Heading up the cast of PANIC is one of my favorite actors, William H. Macy, who portrays Alex, a man facing a mid-life crisis. To deal with the situation, Alex goes to see a therapist named Josh Parks (John Ritter). Right off the bat, we learn that Alex has lifelong issues with his father Michael (Donald Sutherland), who has taken Alex into the family business and forced him to become a contract killer.

Through his continued sessions, we learn that Alex hates his life, hates his father, hates his job, has grown apathetic about his wife Martha (Tracey Ullman) and doesn't know how to change a single thing about his stifling existence. The only ray of sunshine in Alex's life turns out to be Sarah (Neve Campbell), an equally screwed up young woman that Alex meets in his therapist's office. Eventually, Alex comes to realize that he has got to deal with his issues, or he faces the possibility of them coming to deal with him. The cast of PANIC also features Barbara Bain in one of her all too rare screen appearances.

Artisan Home Entertainment has made PANIC available in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is quite nice, producing a clean, crisp, highly detailed image, which isn’t indicative of the film's low budget origins. Colors are rendered with a very natural level of saturation and the flesh tones appear realistic. There are no problems with chroma noise or smearing at any time during the presentation. Blacks are deep and solid, plus the picture produces a fairly impressive amount of shadow detail. The film element used for the transfer is free from annoying blemishes and noticeable grain. Thanks to solid authoring, digital compression artifacts are virtually undetectable.

PANIC is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack that decodes to standard surround. Since PANIC is a dialogue driven character drama, sonic pyrotechnics are pretty much nonexistent. Any form of directionality is localized to the forward soundstage, with the surrounds providing ambience and musical fill. Dialogue sounds fairly natural and is always easy to understand. A Spanish language track has also been provided on the DVD.

Full motion video, animation and sound enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, plus a couple of extras. Director Henry Bromell is featured on a running audio commentary, which provides a good deal of production detail, plus some of the pitfalls associated with low budget filmmaking. There are five deleted scenes are have also been included on the DVD. Although interesting, the scene were excised for fairly obvious reasons. A theatrical trailer, plus cast biographies/filmographies close out the extras.

In case you never heard of it, please be advised that PANIC is a great little movie that is worth checking out. Artisan has done a fine job with the DVD edition of the film, so if you are interested in PANIC, DVD is the only way to go.




DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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