Helen (Kitty Winn) is a homeless girl in New York. She finds Bobby (Al Pacino) who provides the stability and affection she so badly wants. However, Bobby is a small-time hustler and a young addict who lives in Needle Park – the local hangout for all the heroin junkies – and his habits are too much for vulnerable Helen to handle. She soon becomes addicted herself, and life for the pair of them is soon on a downwards slope. They quickly get more deeply hooked on the heroin and this leads to a series of huge betrayals. In spite of this though, the couple can’t give their most deadly addiction – each other.
The latest film of Al Pacino’s to be reviewed is The Panic In Needle Park. No prizes for anyone who has figured out I’ve a slight obsession with Mr P, it’s been obvious for a while now I think. I managed to find the film just before the summer holidays finished last year, and although I reviewed it right after watching it at the time, it is only now that I am getting round to posting my thoughts. I’m happy that this is the last one I got to see before the hard work began again.i really enjoyed it, even if I did need a minute to compose myself again after some of those injection scenes.
Funnily enough, despite her co-star being the reason I watched the film, I thought the main attraction of The Panic In Needle Park was Kitty Winn as Helen. She did a very good job of showing just how quickly drug problems can take hold, especially when it comes to impressionable young women who are left to fend for themselves in big cities such as New York. However, it was also clear that with or without the drugs, Helen’s love for Bobby was unbreakable and could withstand anything, which was a danger in itself.
Of course, whilst I may not have felt that in this film he was the main star, I’m still going to sing his praises. Pacino was brilliant (as always). He portrayed Bobby’s love for Helen beautifully, and I mean it when I say that. In the very first moments they were on screen together, Bobby showed Helen nothing but affection. And d’you know something? As bad as his habit was, Bobby never once pushed Helen to start as well. Yes, when she had made the decision to start shooting heroin, Bobby did take her on romantic dates to a rooftop with nothing but a syringe for company, but because he didn’t encourage her initially, you don’t feel that he’s the bad guy.
The best thing about this film for me was the story. Two lost causes falling in love with each other might not be a storyline that we’re unfamiliar with, but it’s the questions that it raises about heroin addiction and the way society treats this issue that I feel are the real point of the film. The main character of this film have nobody but each other, and whilst being together is not the best thing for either of them, it’s all they can do to hold on to what they have because without the love portrayed in the film, they have nothing but the heroin. And why is this? Because the rest of society shunned people like them at the time the film was released, and to be honest, things today aren’t much better.
Whilst some scenes may be hard to stomach, and the whole topic the film surrounds may be one most would rather over look, I have to say that The Panic In Needle Park is a must-watch not only for fans of Al (me), but for anyone who likes cinema that makes a statement.