David Fincher is skating on thin ice. Two of his movies are excellent, those two being Fight Club and Se7en. That other one he did which no one really wants to talk about is The Game. A 50/50 movie. Half fun, half crap. His latest, Panic Room is pure shit. Putting into words how disappointed I am with Panic Room is going to be difficult. The only positive thing I have to say about it, is that I got The Award Winning Pornographer to pay for my ticket. I don’t like watching movies in theaters that much because I like to yell at the screen when stupid shit annoys me. Panic Room is nothing but stupid shit.

This whole movie just goes to show that without a doubt the most important part of a movie is the script. Fuck actors, directors, producers, etc. If you don’t have a story to tell, you don’t have jack.  In Panic Room there is a room built into a house which is impenetrable. You hide in there when the four horsemen of the apocalypse show up – i.e. to panic.  It’s got thick steel walls and tons of concrete, it’s own air supply, power, telephone, toilet – all sorts of shit. The panic room also sports a wall of video cameras that show the interior of the house along with a phone on a separate line. Oh, and there is a safe hidden in the floor with money in it.

Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, a recently divorced mom with her super smart and super diabetic daughter (Kristen Stewart) Sarah. Except that Sarah has as much body fat as my pinky, which means she has type 1 diabetes, not onset childhood diabetes, which means that hypoglycemic near-coma she conveniently slips into towards the climax is horseshit. Wait! I’ve given too much away. Meg is a college student at Columbia who buys a 4200 square foot house on the Upper West Side.


Sorry, I just punched myself in the head for typing that last line. Oh, I forgot, they have the beautiful and forgivable Ann Magnuson explain how rich Mr. Altman is. Actually, they make poor Ann explain everything that is going on in one of the clumsiest expository scenes in recent film history. Oh wait, I forgot that Jerod Leto guy does a more ham-fisted extemporaneous speech twenty minutes later… See, Meg/Jodie doesn’t like the house because it’s creepy. Ann Magnuson explains that is the only house available in Manhattan that is like her last place upstate. Backyard, dozens of rooms, etc. When Foster first encounters the actual panic room, it is quickly explained that “everybody’s doing it.” Ann baby, I still love you even though they made you yell, “Kid! Stop with the elevator.”

Meg and her kid move into the gigantic house. We see her drinking wine and being upset and placing her cell phone into its charger. HINT. The very same night three guys decide to break in. Fincher treats us to one of his patented pieces of gnarly camera work when he pans the camera from the top of the third floor,all the way to the bottom of the house where Burnham (Forrest Whitaker) is peering in the front door window. Then, Fincher over does it (surprise!) by having the camera go through the hoop of a teakettle. Apparently, he has been going to the George Lucas School of, “If you can technically do something, do it. Forget about plot, realism and most of all the viewer.” Junior (Leto) is the Grandson of the “wealthy eccentric” who lived in the house before. He knows there is a ton of money in the secret safe. He knows how much. He just doesn’t know the combination. That’s why he brings Forrest Whitaker. He also brings along the overly mean and nasty and dumb Raoul (Dwight Yoakum) for some reason.

Here is where Panic Room goes from boring to retarded. The house is supposed to be empty, but Junior is such a crackhead (literally) that he doesn’t realize Foster and kid have moved in. Somehow, Junior is the only relative of the ”wealthy eccentric’s” who knows about the money, got it? So, when the three would-be robbers realize that the house is actually inhabited, they decide to rob it anyway. LAME!!!!! What the fuck?!? Why not just go home and then come back the next day when the kid is at school and Mamma Altman is working, er, I mean also at school? Because the guy who wrote Panic Room is a rich, lazy asshole. Burnham/Whittaker is the good bad guy who says over and over again that he doesn’t want to hurt anyone, even though he winds up hurting people. Junior convinces him to go ahead and rob the joint by explaining to Whittaker that Whittaker’s character really needs the money for a custody lawsuit.  Literally, it is the clumsiest shit in years. And this is supposed to be a smart movie.

The three bad guys go to grab the girls, but somehow a middle aged woman and a diabetic eleven-year-old allude all three grown men and make it into the “Panic Room”. Turns out that Burnham built the room. Does he know a secret way in? No. However, he does think to hook a propane tank up to a garden hose (Which he finds lying around in Manhattan?) and flood the otherwise impregnable panic room with gas. Which of course “backfires” on the three bumbling criminals. I should add, that if the kid didn’t have diabetes, there would have been no movie because Foster and the kid could have just sat inside the panic room and waited for someone to show up. That is how water-thin the plot is.

The most dramatic part of the movie is when Meg sneaks out of the Panic Room to grab her cell phone. I’m not making this up. This is stupid for the following reason. Anybody with a cell phone knows that they don’t work in rooms with foot thick steel walls which are surrounded by concrete. Cell phones don’t even work in elevators. Hell, mine is supposed to be a top of the line model and it cuts out in my bedroom, especially when i am looking at the Hollywood sign from my window.  Asshole writer boy (David Koepp) probably thought about this conundrum for five seconds before he decided that, “Those slobs in Duluth will have no idea.” So, after a daring, hair-raising, phone grabbing escapade, Meg gets the cell phone back into the panic room and it gets no reception. I knew that would happen twenty minutes before it did.  Oh, because Meg hated the panic room so much, even though she bought the house, she never bothered to hook the separate panic room phone up.

Other annoying, obvious stuff besides the fact that a “panic room” is a lame idea; somehow the bad guys don’t think to smash up the video cameras. This was so dumb. First of all, if someone is paranoid enough to build a “panic room”, wouldn’t they pay the extra $50 and get hidden cameras? Second, Whitaker’s character should have realized that they had better smash the cameras. Especially the one in the room next to the panic room where Meg and her lame little daughter just got to sit and watch what the bad guys were doing. As soon as Meg gets out of the
panic room and the bad guys get trapped in it (Yep.) she starts smashing all the cameras. From twenty five minutes into the movie, I kept turning to The Award Winning Pornographer and saying, “Why aren’t they smashing the cameras?” Some A-hole is going to email me and say,”But one of the bad guys says, “Why didn’t we think of that?” as they watch Foster sledgehammer the cameras to bits one by one. I will answer, “The bad guy only said that because there is no way to express ’Man, the fucker who wrote this is a terrible moron’ with just a look in your eye.” And another thing…

Remember in Heat how De Niro and crew steal a bunch of bearer bonds? Guess what they are stealing in this movie. Remember in Heat when Pacino first arrives on the crime scene and announces how professional the “crew” is because they didn’t hesitate? How once they shot one witness they killed all three, because at that point it didn’t matter. Guess what Yokum starts talking about. These two scenes happen within seconds of each other in Panic Room. By the way, Yokum says this while his hand is smashed in the panic room door that earlier in the movie the writer went out of his way to show us has a little laser system which makes the fast shutting door safe. And why doesn’t Whitaker’s character just kill Yokum when his hand is caught in the door? Whitaker would stand to gain an additional $11 million aside from the fact that he knows Yokum is going to get out and kill everybody.

At the very end, just to give the whole fucking thing away, Whitaker and Yokum get out of the panic room and instead of smashing out the bedroom window and going down a fire escape to freedom, the two decide to creep downstairs where THEY KNOW Jodie Foster is hanging out with a loaded gun. Then Foster smashes Yokum in the head with a thirty-pound sledgehammer that sends him flying over a staircase banister. Guess what? Not only does he live, but he gets up and kicks the crap out of everybody until Whitaker shoots him in the back. Oh, when the cops finally catch Whitaker at the end, he not only loses all the money to the wind, but he sticks his arms out as he were that one guy who founded that one religion…

Panic Room is lazy, take-no-chance filmmaking at its worst. It looks good, but who cares? The two guys you really don’t like die, the black man gets a raw deal, and the smug, wealthy white family, while they got a little put upon and scared, triumph in the end. Yawn, fart, fuck. The opening credits dwarf the rest of the movie.

Ruthless Ratings

  • Film, Overall – 3
  • DVD Extras – Still in theaters
  • Story – 0
  • Acting – 5 – Would be a six if that piece of crap Leto wasn’t in it stinking up the joint.
  • Direction – 4

Ruthless Reviews Special Ratings

  • Number of times movie was paused to do something else: When they invent Tivo for movies in theaters I’ll be stoked.
  • Number of times your friend turned to you and laughed: 4
  • Number of times you found yourself enjoying the movie: Ann
    Magnuson is such a babe. Also, the opening credits looked really good.
  • Number of times you wished you had taken that screenwriting class: How many frames per second are there?
  • Number of times the oppressive soundtrack made you reach for
    your knife: I just got a new knife. Luckily for the folks in front of
    me, I had lost my old one. I’m not even sure if there was music.
  • Number of times you imagined the director snickering to
    himself: Who knows. I think he was just too busy trying to think of
    bigger and better camera tricks to notice the crap-fest that was
    developing in front of him on the dailies.
  • Number of times you yelled, “Go out the fucking window” loud enough so that others could hear you: 12
  • Number of times anyone told you to be quiet: 0
  • Number of times you thought of what a great movie Ghost Dog is: 7
About Jonny Lieberman

Jonny was the site’s co-founder and helped carry the place in the early years. There was a falling out with Erich and he left the site for good, but a lot of his reviews live on. He has moved on to a successful career writing about cars. Look him up.