WILLIAM H. MACY is completely unattractive. He's not sexy, doesn't perform homoerotic scenes with Tom Cruise, and he doesn't blow up buildings. I love him for this. Macy is the best Mr. Average Guy actor today, because he always plays Mr. Average Guy gone slightly psychopath--more vulnerable and sorrowful than Tom Hanks could ever be even if he had died on that stupid island.

Macy uses this talent to play one of his best roles in his latest, Panic. It's the story of middle-aged Alex, part-time family man/part-time hit man. He's been brainwashed by his evil father (Donald Sutherland) into a Jekyll and Hyde personality, so effectively that he kills people without blinking. Of course, this numbness spills over into the rest of his life, turning him into a sweet but vapid father, and a loser husband who can only get it up when his wife begs him. "Do you ever just feel like you're dead?" he asks his therapist at one point in the movie. "Like you're walking around on your feet dead?"

But then two things happen. Macy decides to get therapy, and his angry father sets him up to kill his therapist as a form of revenge for going to therapy in the first place. Then, while in the waiting room of the therapist's office, he gets his first glimpse at 23-year-old Sarah (Neve Campbell), who's all lip gloss and tight black leather, and for the first time ever, says Alex, "I don't feel dead anymore." Sarah makes it a sport to sleep with most people she knows, so she takes Alex back to her house to seduce him. All of a sudden, Alex is alive and making his own decisions for the first time in his life, and the chain of events that follows is even more disturbing then watching him kill people in his sleep.

Unlike his recent role in the movie Magnolia, where he played a boy genius who had grown up into a repressed, miserable adult, Macy isn't pathetic. While he's still sad and lonely, he's also quite responsible about his depression, quietly withdrawing from the world around him while he suffers. It's easy to have complete sympathy for Macy, even as he nonchalantly shoots innocent people.

Of course, this isn't the first movie to draw out sympathy for a "bad guy"--in fact, nothing is particularly revolutionary about this movie. Sutherland gives a stellar performance as the Evil Father who both loves and hates his son in a demented way, and Campbell just kind of flits around like she usually does, showing off the goods without resorting to much acting. It's also totally predictable. But it's more effective than previous movies with the same notion. It is deeply disturbing because it rings so true to real life and because, well, Macy could be anybody's father, boss, or lover.

And even if he's not, he shows that anyone has the potential to become this person--Panic demonstrates how easy it is to brainwash people into apathy, and how it's the most dangerous weapon. It echoes the same messages brought up in all those Death-by-Suburbia movies like Fight Club and The Virgin Suicides, except it doesn't hit you over the head. Panic is Fight Club on a much smaller, more poignant scale: one person's intimate psychology. You won't be on the edge of your seat and you won't cry; the movie did wonderfully at Sundance, but after one "focus group," didn't like it, the big distributors dropped it. That's why you won't see it at Regal Cinemas, even though it's more disturbing and memorable than any movie you'll find there currently.