Dr. Michael Stoner (Dorian Harewood) is a young, black doctor who works in a hospital located in a poverty-stricken Los Angeles neighborhood that has a high crime rate. Stoner’s got the education and the talent to be working in an upscale hospital and making a lot of money but it’s more important to Stoner that he give something back to the community. Stoner is a doctor who cares and he has no hesitation letting everyone know it. When he meets a wealthy plastic surgeon at a party, he tells him that he should come down to Stoner’s hospital and try his hand at fixing up bullet holes. The plastic surgeon doesn’t react well to the suggestion.
Stoner is convinced that there’s an epidemic breaking out in the Echo Park neighborhood but he can’t get anyone to listen to him. No one cares about what happens in Echo Park. When Stoner deduces that the illness is being caused by dirty tap water, he still can’t get anyone to listen to him. He yells at people at parties and everyone ignores him. He goes to the press and the media refuses to cover the story. The corporate weasels who are responsible for poisoning the water don’t care about anything other than money. Stoner talks about his problems to a young man who is in a coma and he gets no response.
Finally, Stoner is forced to enlist the help of a group of local teenagers who are making a documentary about life in their neighborhood. Dr. Stoner may not always be polite but he gets results.
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, Panic In Echo Park is a made-for-TV movie and much like Where Have All The People Gone? (which was also directed by Moxey), it seems like it was probably envisioned as being a pilot for a weekly series. Watching the film, it’s easy to imagine Dr. Stoner getting mad on a weekly basis. Like most made-for-TV movies, it’s predictable and the characters are all either too obviously good or too obviously evil. However, Dorian Harewood (who is probably best known for getting shot over and over again in Full Metal Jacket) gives a good performance as Dr. Stoner. He doesn’t get to do much other than yell at people but Harewood does it well. Today, a story involving people getting sick from dirty tap water does not seem far fetched (do they have clean water in Flint, yet?) and the scenes where Dr. Stoner orders people to be put into “quarantine” feel disturbingly like the evening news.