Milez Das (Rohit Shivdas)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Set in the heart of New York City, a love story blossoms between Helen and Bobby that drains down within the addiction of drugs, the desperation of wanting and the betrayals it forms.
The Panic in Needle Park frames towards the realism of addiction that hits on a relationship. When we meet Helen, she just wants a place to stay after breaking up with her boyfriend. She is shy and quite. When she meets Bobby, his life of being a hustler quite fascinates her as she moves in with him. Bobby's life is nothing more that spending time with drug addicts, hustle some drugs from here and there in a time when there is a shortage of and finally reeling in Helen to use sexual favors to score heroin.
Directed by Jerry Schatzberg, The Panic in Needle Park doesn't shy away from the roughness and desperation that brings in with a drug addict. While watching you just want Helen and Bobby to movie away from this city and set a life in country as they talk about one time, but their addiction and ambition has crossed their own lines of familiarity.
The means of using each other to score drugs, the betrayals that makes them more numb in addiction at one point. Helen becoming someone she wasn't meant to be, but the life she has chosen with Bobby bring her to that occupation.
Al Pacino as Bobby gives one his career best performance, a performance that landed him his best role of lifetime. Looking at this poster if it is re released now, it would have Al Pacino's name plastered all over it, but it was time of his screen debut. Al Pacino grabs on this realistic approach towards Bobby. Bobby's need to climb above brings some disadvantages to himself, the scene of him overdosing, being out from using that leads to Helen taking her first needle.
Kitty Winn as Helen is the highlight of this movie. This is probably one of the best performances ever graced on the screen. Her journey from start to end really hits you hard. You just want her to be happy in her own world but the world that she has chosen webs into desperation, guilt and betrayals. Kitty Winn's smile is so beautiful.
The Panic in Needle Park revolves around drug addiction and a love story that is unfolding within it. The shots of needle punching in the veins through blood stream and the high that brings in might provide a comfort for an hour but the real world hits down on you and it makes you do things that just bring in destruction and nothing else. Al Pacino and Kitty Winn give one of the best performances ever.
The Panic in Needle Park reminded me of two movies, Safdie Brothers masterpiece Heaven Knows What and Uli Edel's Christiane F. which hits the same notes of this movie providing in the realism the beats withing the side effect of using drugs.