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14 reviews, 97 user ratings

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Panic Room
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by Brian McKay

"To paraphrase Chris Rock 'There is no sex in the panic room . . .'"
4 stars

Oh, there's PANIC in the panic room, but ain't no sex in the panic room (unless you count a couple of shots of Foster's cleavage). That's okay though, because a film like this doesn't require sex. It requires atmosphere, deliberate pacing, intriguing characters, and edge-of-your-seat suspense. Thankfully, it provides ample doses of all of those, it's only weaknesses coming in the form of excess on the finishing touches.

"Panic Room" is director David Fincher's fifth feature film, and he has lain down a pretty solid track record. Of course, everyone seems to overlook that botched abortion also known as "Alien 3", but he also did "Fight Club", which more than makes up for it. While this is not the instant classic that "Fight Club" was, it is still an impressive addition to Fincher's resume', and the first "suspense-thriller" to come along in God knows how long that is actually suspenseful and thrilling.

Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, the quiet and (rightfully) bitter divorcee' from a rich pharmaceuticals magnate who has left her and their young teenage daughter, Sarah (Kristen Stewart) to go off and bang some model half his age. The consolation prize is that Meg (presumably) is getting a nice chunk of alimony and child support, so she can afford to pay the outlandish rent on a posh New York "Townstone" ("It's a bit of a cross between a Town House and a Brownstone", the realtor explains in the opening sequence.) The "Townstone" (which sounds a little too much like "Tombstone"), is a sprawling affair with 3 stories (all hardwood floors, of course), a sweeping array of bannistered staircases, an elevator, a huge skylight, and way too much space for two people. But what the hell, the cheating bastard's paying for it, so why not?

The realtor explains that the property was occupied previously by a rich eccentric who spent the last few years of his life in a wheelchair. In addition to installing the elevator, this individual also installed a "Panic Room" - a hidden, fortified room where the occupants can run to and lock themselves in during an emergency (home invasion, looting and rioting, zombie attack - that sort of thing). It comes complete with cases of rations, a toilet (good thinking, there), and a phone that is hard-wired seperate from the house's main line (although you know it's going to end up not working - if it did, that would make for a pretty short movie). It also has a bank of monitors that allow them to watch almost the entire house via a network of video cameras. In other words, it has all the necessities, but none of the amenities (where's the minibar? the snacks? the Playstation 2? the PORN???)

On their first night in the place, their new home is invaded by a trio of thieves, led by a man named Burnham (Forest Whitaker). We know his name is Burnham, because that's what the name patch on his work overalls say (it's always a good idea to wear identifiers on your clothing while burgling a house). Along with Junior (Jared Leto in dreadlocks - attempting to create a "bad-boy" image, I guess) and the meancing, ski-mask wearing Raoul (Dwight Yoakam, of all people), Burnham is there to get the millions of dollars the old man supposedly left behind - hidden in a safe in the panic room.

The trio of thieves are suprised to find that the house is already re-occupied, inadvertently waking up Meg. She quickly runs to wake her daughter and, after a nail-biting chase, they make it into the panic room. What ensues for the next 90 minutes is an intense cat and mouse game, with the thieves trying to get into the panic room, while Meg and Sarah are trying to get out.

Fincher has created a Hitchkock-like atmosphere, using only a single setting (the entire film takes place in the house) and no more than a half-dozen characters. In addition to the tight pacing, "Panic Room" features some amazing camerawork, which has become something of a trademark for Fincher since "Fight Club". There are some dizzying shots where the camera, seemingly in one fluid take, pulls back and zooms forward throughout the huge house, slipping through slats in stairway railings, keyholes, and even the handle of a coffee pot. I have no fucking clue how he does it, but it's got to be worth an oscar nod for cinematography. The cast all do good work, perhaps with the exception of Leto's character who, while providing some comic relief to break the tension, chews so much scenery that he could almost gnaw his way into the panic room. Meanwhile. Foster plays her role with a grim determination. She's no action hero, but she does heroic things that are based on necessity and calculated risk. Stewart plays a convincingly intelligent young woman who never lapses into any "daughter in distress" hysterics. Best of all is Forest Whitaker as Burnham, the thief with a conscience who realizes he is in over his head with his greedy and bloodthirsty colleagues.

Though "Panic Room" will have you clutching the armrests of your seat several times, it only begins to stumble when it becomes too elaborate. Why is Meg sneaking around the house setting traps and the like, when she could just pick up a gun and shoot the motherfuckers? and speaking of gun, why was one not included in the panic room already? That would be at the top of my list (next to the snacks and home entertainment system). And there are one or two contrivances that will have your snorting "yeah, right!" However, those kinds of moments are to be expected in even the best thrillers, and "Panic Room" has more than enough going for it to make up for the deficiencies.

I'm betting that this movie will spark a trend among the rich, and panic room contractors will be up to their asses in work for the next six months. Although the panic room becomes as much of a trap as a fortress, it's still a freakin' cool idea. But hell, if you're going to spend that much money on converting a walk-in closet into a bunker, at least give it some aesthetics. Maybe a "disco-room" theme . . .

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4733&reviewer=258
originally posted: 03/30/02 14:15:34
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User Comments

3/12/17 morris campbell tense well directed 4 stars
1/04/09 Samantha Pruitt interesting idea, acting is good, they seem to have though of everything! 4 stars
8/12/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Okay,we get it.Jodie Foster is one bad mutha...shut your mouth.Hollywood,please...new idea! 1 stars
2/11/08 Mike Hunt 110 minute gimmick movie. Time will not be kind to this fincher wreck. 1 stars
1/22/08 Double M A typical Hollywood thriller + Fincher's style. OK, but for Fincher, it's too disappointing 3 stars
1/14/07 Gloria Dornin I loved it, made me want to get a Panic room!! 4 stars
12/02/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
10/09/06 MP Bartley Jodie Foster, Woman of Steel! 4 stars
4/04/06 Dk Tense taught thriller that may be one of this centuries finest 5 stars
8/11/05 ES Dwight steals the show here, he's a really good actor= superb movie experience 5 stars
6/18/05 Nicole A disappoint after Se7en & Fight Club - I expected better 3 stars
4/03/05 indrid cold An odd idea for a movie. Not great but definitely "worth a look." 4 stars
2/26/05 Alice Colwell boring 3 stars
11/17/04 John Bale Smartly directed thriller with plenty of shock moments. 4 stars
9/19/04 R.W. Welch Neatly plotted cat & mouse game has some weak spots but entertains. 4 stars
8/16/04 Ana Marie It was kinda creepy... And Kristen acted well at that age. 5 stars
7/08/04 JME Not much to work with, but everyone involved pulls through - minus Koepp 4 stars
6/13/04 MyGreenBed Fincher has that great glossy-yet-arty look to his films, however this one has nothing but. 2 stars
2/03/04 Charles Tatum Unbelievable premise, arrogant direction, but great acting and pacing 4 stars
1/29/04 LIAM JACKSON i like the way raoul changes from a silent background observer to a truly menacing psycho. 5 stars
12/08/03 Samuel A very realistic film, strong performances!! 3 stars
10/18/03 Psiseeker let's keep this simple "110% TERRIBLE" If u like it, u r retarded 1 stars
8/17/03 Lorraine I love Jodie Foster but she chose the wrong movie here - rubbish 2 stars
8/12/03 It's just me I love this movie. It's really entertaining. Jodie Foster is an amazing actress. 5 stars
5/14/03 joshx42 Bad ending, good film. 4 stars
4/16/03 Nicole I expected much better 3 stars
4/14/03 reptilesni I was actually on the very edge of my seat. Some plot holes but who cares? 5 stars
3/02/03 Jack Sommersby Creatively bankrupt and lethargically rendered. Foster, though, is terrific. 1 stars
2/13/03 Andrew Carden Horrifying Film With Twisted Screenplay and Eerie Direction. 5 stars
2/01/03 paul Great suspense, disappointing ending. RUN FOREST RUN!! 4 stars
1/29/03 Ken Very tense, well-directed thriller. Best opening credits ever. 4 stars
1/13/03 Mitsaso If it wasn't for the stupid ending... 4 stars
11/28/02 Monster W. Kung STEVE, Fight Club is Fincher's best easily. Whoever thinks different is a retard, like you. 2 stars
11/16/02 PsiSeeker My ending. Forest gets $, millionairess, brat, 2 tards get offed! :-) 2 stars
11/08/02 Phil M. Aficionado Awesone, until the cliche ending. Imagination please. Great camera work. 4 stars
10/22/02 palaboy101 A fairly big part of the story centered on a product placement for NOKIA 3 stars
10/01/02 John McNew A terrific, tense and fun, edge-of-your-seat thriller! Kudos to Foster and Kristen Stewart! 4 stars
9/22/02 .Choadushouse. Beautiful direction. And great performances. Definatly worth seeing. Fincher is the man. 4 stars
7/14/02 Roy Smith Blah - made by the guy that did Fight Club? Really? You sure? 3 stars
6/22/02 David A. Not as bad as Ocean's 11, but still a boring "science of being a crook" thing. Yawn. 3 stars
6/06/02 crush I loved it 5 stars
5/26/02 Nicole Big let down if you have seen other Fincher flicks 3 stars
5/23/02 Kristen very disappointing 3 stars
5/18/02 Chowie very good, but i felt as if they just eneded the movie coz they didnt know what to put next 4 stars
5/17/02 viking well made, but not Fincher's best 4 stars
5/14/02 Stud This movie was non-stop suspenseful!! 5 stars
5/12/02 Amy I expected more from a Jodie Foster movie. 3 stars
4/28/02 dave macdougall compared to every other Fincher movie.... this one sucks 2 stars
4/25/02 Nick2k hmm...don't expect a 'surprise ending'. we need more good movies with whitaker. 4 stars
4/21/02 Monster W. Kung Very disappointing, considering this guy directed Fight Club. 3 stars
4/15/02 Lauren anyone who rates this above "average" has to get out more! 3 stars
4/14/02 Lachlan bland and shallow- the best part is the titles at the satrt of the film. the script is diab 2 stars
4/12/02 Thor-Leo A fairly satisfying ride 4 stars
4/12/02 oldgoatmon not a jodie foster movie, why did she do it? Predictible and in retrospect little movement 2 stars
4/12/02 Punky Brewster If youve never seen a thriller before in your life, you might consider this to be "Awesome" 3 stars
4/12/02 CJ one of the few movies I'd like to see again 5 stars
4/11/02 Matthew Smith one of the year's best thrillers that will have you jumping out of your seat . 5 stars
4/11/02 margie yntema awesome 5 stars
4/09/02 Janine Lay not great, too hokey, diabetic daughter pushed the limits being stuck in the room like that 3 stars
4/09/02 spikeme502 Jodie Foster has more balls than most working actors 5 stars
4/08/02 bullit17 Fincher does it again. Hand-wringing, nailbting suspense and intensity 5 stars
4/07/02 Nicole Not a typical Fincher film and not really suspenseful if you have seen any of the previews. 3 stars
4/07/02 stoolie-bird generic fast food for the brain...not worth your time or money 3 stars
4/07/02 Koitus Compared to the rest of the CRAP that the industry is putting out these days -- 4-stars! 4 stars
4/06/02 FrayLo Sure, may be corny at times, but still a good suspenseful movie. 4 stars
4/06/02 Jessi Lacking in Plot 3 stars
4/05/02 Rapper S. Delight This one's for Forest Whitaker & Jodie Foster, while Leto & Yoakam are over-the-top fun 5 stars
4/05/02 Nicholas Schoonover Most worthless movie EVER! Bought the script from a 6th grader who wrote it in 20 mins. 1 stars
4/04/02 Obi Wan Hello Claris . . .I loved your new movie that Kidman turned down! Good 4 you!!! 5 stars
4/03/02 Dave MacDougall cookie cutter bad guys..... 2 stars
4/03/02 Spanky Typical non-human-acting characters. Why such a big gap between reality tv & fictional? 3 stars
4/03/02 dannyevans good movie, but the propane would have settled on the floor thus killing them in the fire 4 stars
4/03/02 orpy entertaining to a point, stupid ending 3 stars
4/02/02 Butterbean I saw plots like this on Lifetime TV. Have your date pay for you to see this one. 3 stars
4/01/02 lauren mccreight nothing you haven't seen before.... 3 stars
4/01/02 Dr Laura Is A Bitch (Doo dah, doo dah...) Engaging, gripping, slightly disturbing. Slight constant-crisis syndrome. Get the video. 4 stars
4/01/02 spaceworm Way better than the other stuff that opened today - a classic for its weekend. 4 stars
3/31/02 KMG This movie was outstanding...but where was Lecter? 5 stars
3/31/02 CoffeeVixen jesus christ, i came close to shitting my pants over the suspense! this movie rocks! 5 stars
3/31/02 Todd Beamer Best thriller in quite some times...and it actually delivers!! Bravo!! 5 stars
3/31/02 Ziggy Stardust Stylistically perfect. Just a fun flick to see. Not as scary as one would hope. 5 stars
3/31/02 skafunkrastapunk Amazing film making. Every shot was there for a reason. Be sure to watch the titles. cool 5 stars
3/31/02 Superdave Grandtastic 5 stars
3/30/02 Olivia Sands Whatever happened to Jodie Foster? 1 stars
3/30/02 malcolm great camera work, but there's never any doubt that Foster and the kid will be OK 3 stars
3/30/02 Chuck and Fran Great movie! Would have been better with more exposition and character development. 4 stars
3/30/02 Film Dude The best movie of the year so far - but it isn't hard to beat what else I saw this year. 5 stars
3/30/02 Film Guy Finally a GOOD movie. Panic Room Delivers 4 stars
3/30/02 ajayrockrock when people "count to 3" why don't they ever kill anyone? Great Movie!!! 5 stars
3/30/02 Gary I saw this with the movieman, and I find it just as good as he did, an exciting movie 4 stars
3/30/02 Michael ***** Tihs movie was the best movie of 2002 so far(Jodie Foster kicked ass) 5 stars
3/30/02 Zero182 Top-notch thriller. The screenplay/script is superb and the tension is gripping. 5 stars
3/30/02 frank a technical masterpiece. 4 stars
3/29/02 BO Despite all the femminazi psychobabble about 'dominant sex', this was a good movie. 4 stars
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  29-Mar-2002 (R)
  DVD: 30-Mar-2004



Directed by
  David Fincher

Written by
  David Koepp

  Jodie Foster
  Kristen Stewart
  Forest Whitaker
  Jared Leto
  Dwight Yoakum
  Ann Magnuson

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