The Panic in Needle Park (1971)

Directed By – Jerry Schatzberg

Sceenplay By – Joan Didion & John Gregory Dunne

Based on the Book By – James Mills

Cinematography By – Adam Holender

Starring Al Pacino & Kitty Winn

110 min.

The Panic in Needle Park is a type of film that doesn’t get made anymore. It’s a sad and realistic portrayal of the life of heroin addicts living in Needle Park, New York City in the 1970s. There is no single catalyst or plot line, the movie simply follows a couple into the darknesses of addiction, following their actions and reactions to certain instances that happens to addicts.

Al Pacino and Kitty Winn give scarily believable performances as a pair of addicts slowly finding out what they’ll do for their next fix.

Panic is not for the weak at heart. There are several shots and scenes where needles actually go into arms. These shots are extremely upsetting and will turn your stomach in knots. The realism of this movie is beyond description and make me wonder if the supporting actors (and maybe even the stars) in this cast have actually had experiences with heroin.

What I found to an interesting part of this movie is that for someone like me who was not around in the 60’s and 70’s, this movie served as a sort of time capsule of a different time, with the characters speaking slangs for drugs and sex that I had never heard of before. Panic very much has a documentary feel in that way.

If you have an interest in addiction or a darker side of New York City in the 60’s and 70’s, or you just want to see an excellent film with a brilliant performance by a young Al Pacino then you should check out this movie.


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