Civic Duty.

 

This was the official website for the movie, Civic Duty. Content is from the site's 2006 archived pages and other outside sources.

Initial release: April 26, 2006
Director: Jeff Renfroe
Music composed by: Terry Huud
Initial DVD release: October 2, 2007
Producer: Andrew Lanter

 

It's been more than five years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but Terry Allen, the man at the center of the new film Civic Duty, remains afraid that someone could be plotting another attack on the United States. He's a normal guy with a white-collar job living in a media-saturated world, where CNN is a constant backdrop and everyone knows whether the terror alert is at yellow or orange.

But then Terry (Peter Krause) gets fired, and with lots of time on his hands, he starts keeping an eye on his new neighbor, a Muslim student named Hasan. He sees Hasan going through the trash early in the morning, follows him around town, and even calls the FBI to file a report. But when the FBI doesn't appear to be taking his concerns seriously, Terry decides it's time to take matters into his own hands. It's not the most subtle movie I've ever seen, but it does raise a lot of questions about stereotypes, prejudice and trust.

The political thriller opens in several cities this Friday, May 4. I recently sat down with Peter Krause to chat about the film, its politics and a variety of other subjects, and I'll bring you my interview with him on Friday. For now, you can watch the Civic Duty trailer if you

 

 

REVIEWS:

Civic Duty
By Scott Tobias
May 3, 2007
Since 9/11, the disparity between how much the average American frets about terrorism and the actual possibility of dying from a terrorist attack has been almost comically vast. And yet the absurdity continues, from the threat of grandma's 5 oz. bottle of hand lotion to tiny regional airports reconfigured to look like military outposts. There's a great satire to be made about anti-terrorist paranoia, but the overheated indie thriller Civic Duty goes the opposite route, dealing instead with the suspicions of a man who looks askance at his neighbor. Though the tone goes haywire pretty quickly, the film nicely captures the white noise that keeps America wired—scary reports from 24-hour cable news networks, hyperbolic Presidential soundbites, terror elevations that queasily rise and fall. Under these circumstances, it's easy to see how an unstable mind could see things that aren't necessarily there.

Cast shrewdly against type, Peter Krause (SportsNight, Six Feet Under) stars as an unemployed accountant who seethes with low-level fury over a world that's done him wrong. When "Middle Eastern-looking guy" Khaled Abol Naga moves into the apartment across the courtyard, Krause has oceans of time to nurture his suspicions that the guy's a terrorist. It all starts when Naga takes his garbage out at 3 am, and poking through said refuse, Krause discovers letters from a Muslim organization that, gulp, has sections on its website written in Arabic. Things escalate when Krause witnesses Naga consorting with other Arabs at a copy center and later finds suspicious beakers and tubing in his apartment. Krause tries to convince his devoted wife (Kari Matchett) and a skeptical FBI agent (Richard Schiff) that his neighbor could be a threat, but he succeeds only in raising concerns about himself.

In a bow to thriller convention, Civic Duty focuses too heavily on the is-he-or-isn't-he-a-terrorist question, which is pretty much a non-starter as mysteries go. (One hint: Terrorist organizations rarely send checks on company letterhead.) Shooting in digital video, director Jeff Renfroe needlessly amps up the proceedings with jittery camerawork, jump cuts, and other technical hiccups meant to disorient the audience. All that flash serves to prop up what's in essence a one-act play, constructed around a political message that's telegraphed from the start. A hint of ambiguity sneaks into the conclusion, but the big reveal seems beside the point.

REVIEW IMDb

interesting but slow-moving and depressing throughout
31 October 2007 | by I M Buggy (USA
The topic is very interesting, and somewhat important in the face of the post-9/11 terrorist attack, resulting in a backlash of suspicion by many US citizens toward people of middle-eastern descent or culture.

This paranoid-episode focuses on a down and out man, and the suspicions he experiences when a new neighbor of apparent middle-eastern background moves into a nearby apartment. Various pre-existing marital tensions in his marriage contribute to fuel his determination.

All of the acting is well-done. Most everything is well-done. But it's just plain depressing and down-mood, from beginning to end, so don't plan on watching it for weekend escape-entertainment.

If you were hoping for action, there's almost none of it here. Even on suspense, there's very little. It's more of a drama with a slight edge at a few points in the latter third of the movie. The last minute or two of the movie's ending left me unclear on what had happened and what was implied. I felt that it could be interpreted at least two different ways.

Overall, it's a worthwhile movie with food for thought. But I wouldn't think of it as invigorating or thought-provoking-- it was more frustrating, from my point of view.

Details
Country: UK | USA | Canada
Language: English | Arabic
Release Date: 11 September 2008 (Brazil) See more »
Also Known As: Dever Cívico See more »
Filming Locations: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

 

 

REVIEWS Rotten Tomatoes

TOMATOMETER CRITICS 56% | AUDIENCE 33%

CRITICS

May 21, 2007
Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper  Top Critic
A flawed but worthwhile examination of paranoia and clashing cultures in the 21st century.


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May 4, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/5
Matt Zoller Seitz
New York Times  Top Critic
The vivid sense of time and place is the best thing about the initially promising, ultimately irritating psychological thriller Civic Duty.

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June 22, 2007 | Rating: 1.5/5
Scott Collura
IGN Movies
BY SCOTT COLLURA How far is too far when it comes to being vigilant in the post-9/11 world? Does or should our hunt for terrorists and suspicious persons not just abroad, but in our everyday life, have limitations? At what point do we become the terrorists in our pursuit of happiness?These are some of the questions that are raised by Civic Duty, and very valid topics they are indeed. Unfortunately, this paranoia thriller brings up these questions only to dodge them for the most part, and the picture winds up mainly being about what can happen to you these days if you watch too much cable news. Civic Duty is ballsy enough to raise subject matter that some folks in America would rather not talk about, but unfortunately the film then goes the dutifully Hollywood route and doesn't really give us any answers, instead opting for a trite twist ending that you can see coming a mile away.Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) stars as Terry Allen, a businessman who loses his job as the film starts and finds himself with a lot of spare time and frustration on his hands. This free time leads to plenty of cable news viewing, with Terry's apparently fragile (and obviously bruised since his firing) psyche becoming very susceptible to the fear-mongering chatter on the news about the war on terror and national alert levels and all the rest of it. There be Al-Qaeda in them thar hills, I tell ya.Terry thinks he's netted one when a Middle Eastern guy moves in to the apartment downstairs from him, suspiciously so as far as Terry's concerned because the new neighbor has very little furniture, talks on pay phones, and drives around with a fellow generic Middle Eastern guy sometimes. (God and/or Allah forbid that the filmmakers actually assign a real country of origin to these dudes; no, instead they're just Middle Eastern.) Terry's wife Marla (Kari Matchett from 24) isn't buying into this terrorist junk and she introduces herself to the young man downstairs, who says he's a graduate student named Gabe (and played by Khaled Abol Naga, perhaps the most handsome would-be modern day terrorist ever. Richard Reid's got nothing on you, Gabe). Terry objects to Marla's playing nice with the guy, erupting with lines like, "You want to replace your fetish for rock stars with jihadists? I think that's very now of you."

As Terry continues to spiral downward into a state of spiritual atrophy because of his unemployment, his fixation on Gabe leads him into trouble. He watches the man's comings and goings from his window upstairs, he follows him in his car, and he calls the FBI on him as well. This leads to a surprisingly prompt visit from one Agent Hillary (Richard Schiff, The West Wing), though the viewer can't help but wonder if Hillary is profiling Gabe or Terry with his visit. (Schiff also offers some rare humor in the film with a slightly quirky performance.)Eventually it all boils down to cliché, with home invasions by Terry, physical confrontations between Terry and Gabe, a hostage situation, a main character getting gunned down, and all the other standard thriller tropes that might excite the kind of audience member who's also drawn to your average Halle Berry nail-biter, but will do nothing but bore the people who were drawn to the film for its alleged exploration of more important questions about living in today's world.The look of the film doesn't help either, as it seems to take place in Anonymous Town, Canada. Without being grounded in a real world setting or city, and more specifically a real American city, Civic Duty suffers from a generic feel that takes away some of the potential weight of the story. It's just as tough to buy into the fake cable news channel that Terry watches, "CVV" -- yes, of course CNN and all the rest don't tend to lend their names out for use in movies, but that doesn't mean that the use of a "CVV" is any easier to buy for the audience.Director Jeff Renfroe and scripter Andrew Joiner have claimed that part of their mission in making the film was to de-demonize Joe American's perception of the average Muslim, but that intention is all but negated by the final moments of Civic Duty, proving that the filmmakers really weren't ever all that interested in probing any real issues with the film or painting the Gabe character in anything but black and white terms.Besides, isn't it obvious who the real bad guys are here anyway? "Is he making bombs down there," Krause's character seems to be thinking, "or are those voices in my head just Bill O'Reilly and Anderson Cooper yelling again?"

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10/09/07
by David Cornelius
'Civic Duty' is almost over before the movie finally says its buzzword: terrorist. The characters go out of their way to avoid using such a term, perhaps to sidestep the sensation that such a word would make their prejudices too real, perhaps to keep from making one's paranoid thoughts seem silly by locking them down to such an absurd possibility, perhaps because with 9/11 on the minds of everyone involved, such a word is so obvious it never needs to be spoken.
It's probably somewhere in between all three, and the way the screenplay tackles language is a key factor in the film's success: so much goes unspoken, leaving the actors to fill in the gaps with their performances. It works. 'Civic Duty' is a constricted ensemble piece, and its core cast ably handles the constant ratcheting of the tension without letting their characters snap.

And yet this is far from a solid film. While the screenplay, from first time scribe Andrew Joiner, handles character and dialogue very well, it rambles a bit too much, allowing the tension to sag under unnecessary scenes and the occasional hackneyed plot device. This is a brilliant short story stretched out to feature length, and the padding is too loose to make it the great film it could have been.

The movie uses Hitchcockian paranoia as a launching pad for a discussion of our collective post-9/11 psyche. Terry (Peter Krause) just lost his job, right at the height of national tension. Bored and frustrated, he takes increasing notice with his new neighbor (Khaled Abol Naga), who is obviously suspicious because he is 'Middle Eastern' and hangs out with 'other Middle Eastern guys.' Terry's study of this young man quickly turns to obsession; his wife (Kari Matchett) eventually leaves him, and the FBI agent (Richard Schiff) whom Terry called for help warns him to back off.

There's some marvelous stuff here, whip smart social commentary that offers up some very intriguing questions, as the movie becomes increasingly vague as to the neighbor's status as terrorist or target of bigotry. Joiner's script repeatedly shakes our understanding of the characters like an Etch-A-Sketch, starting over again and again as new clues present themselves. But either possible outcome offers a pile of moral quandaries: If Terry is right and the neighbor is a terrorist, how far should he go beyond the consent of law enforcement? If he is wrong, is his paranoia justifiable due to the clues provided? 

By refusing to state the neighbor's status while constantly reworking our views of the character, Joiner and director Jeff Renfroe challenge both sides of the political spectrum. Lefties must strongly contend with the possibility that sometimes the profile really does fit, and it's not always a case of racial injustice. Righties, however, must strongly contend with the reverse. 'Civic Duty' lives squarely in the grey area of politics and warfare.

But it also lives squarely in the bland area of mid-level thriller. All of this conjecture and debate get bogged down with blah suspense scenes (Terry breaks into the neighbor's apartment, then must hide when he comes home too early) and a third act that puts the emphasis a bit too much on Terry's mental state (including an 'oooh, gotcha!' epilogue that doesn't quite negate all the questions they movie presents, but it sure negates the strength of those questions while it also threatens to turn all involved into generic movie characters stuck beyond the reality of the rest of the film). Just when the story's getting clever, along comes a hackneyed suspense sequence or trite plot twist to dumb it down a few notches.
And yet it remains solid enough to make for a quality conversation starter, thanks to all those right notes and strong performances from a top notch cast. The movie intentionally raises far more questions than it's inclined to answer, and if we can ignore the plot's too-often dips into clich', we just might walk away with a lot on our minds.

AUDIENCE REVIEWS

 

***Alex roy  Super Reviewer
Pretty effective thriller, Civic Duty starring Peter Krause is a low budget picture that manages to be entertaining from start to finish despite its limitations. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. Released in the years following 9/11, the film emphasizes on the paranoia at the time when America were in a state of vulnerability. The film is engaging a truly riveting from start to finish. Of course the film could have been improved upon, but for what it is, it’s a well crafted film that manages to be far better than what you might think. Krause is great in the lead role, and the film overall relies on a good idea, but at the same time, we’ve seen better films dealing with similar subjects. Despite its limitations, Civic Duty is one of those movies that are quite engaging considering its budget and simple premise. There are moments in the film where it gets very intense, and you are sucked into its plot. I’ll admit that a few times it was silly, but overall, I enjoyed the film, and thought it was a well directed and thrilling film that despite a few weak parts is a picture worth seeing if you enjoy the genre. Krause is a good actor, and his work on Six Feet Under is proof of that, and like I previously said, he is good in the film, and manages to make the film better than it is. For a low budget thriller, Civic Duty is one of the better ones, but it never does reach its full potential, and it somehow leaves you wanting a bit more. Worth seeing if you have nothing else better to do.

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*** Deb S
 Super Reviewer
This movie taps into the post 9/11 paranoia and Peter Krause is believable as the recently laid off accountant, Terry Allen who now is having trouble finding work. He becomes suspicious of his middle-eastern looking neighbor Khaled Abol Naga who has just moved in and seemingly fits the profile of a terrorist because of his friendship with other Arab looking guys who show up at his place with all kinds of mysterious packages and who has the strange habit of dumping his garbage at odd times at night. Khaled also has ominous looking chemical equipment in his kitchen along with ATM deposit envelopes for what appears to be a money laundering set up for terrorist activities. The ending keeps you guessing as it was never really clear whether or not Krause was paranoid or justified in suspecting his neighbor. My Take: I just think this movie will make more people paranoid. It's is not hard to believe that this kind of bigotry still exist despite our policy of innocent until proven guilty where one should not discriminate based on ethnic culture, religion or color of skin; even if it turns out in the end that you were right all along. It's enough to depress you but will definitely leave you wondering even when it is all over.

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*** Bruce Bruce
 Super Reviewer
This movie hit the screen shortly after 9-11, it was done fast to capitalize on the post 9-11 movie rush. Its not a bad movie but its surely low budget. Our Main Crazy Star is Peter Krause who plays Terry Allen, a loser of a man, lost job, losing his wife, he sits at home watching the news about the 9-11 terrorist and this creates fear in his mind. Next thing you know Gabe Hassan played by Khaled Abol Naga moves into the apartment complex. This is an accurate portrayals of modern-day paranoia in the most of the world, but here in the United States we have once again let our guard down. Gabe is a Middle Eastern Man, and Terry falls into the negative thinking that Gabe is a terrorist. He does everything to the man to get something to point that Gabe is fixing to attack the US. The FBI is involved, Terry just flips out and in the end is put in to a mental Facility and then one day watching the news Terry sees on the news all that he was telling the FBI has unfolded. Its worth 3 stars.

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*** Steve Allen
I saw this recently on Netflix and mentioned it at work where I work with a team creating custom software for companies whose needs have outpaced their off-the-shelf (OTS) software. Custom software is typically designed to meet the specialized requirements of a group of users or an organization better than what traditional or off-the-shelf software can. We develop an applications that can be used to fulfill one purpose for an organization, or could encompass all a business' processes and integrate them together. Each job is different and keeps us on our toes. Anyway, with the negative atmosphere the 45th president of the US has created, I wouldn't be surprised this movie has become "real" for any number of people. There are a number of folks who work at RTSLabs who are concerned not only with the immigration ban aimed at Muslim, the crack down on undocumented immigrants, and now with the revoking of DACA. It's enough to make anyone paranoid. My comments about the movie that does offer up some very intriguing questions, got lost as other people started venting their anger over the government's and particularly the White House's comments on immigration and terrorism. Oh well.

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** ½ Walter M.
 Super Reviewer
Bill Hicks once told a funny joke about watching CNN non-stop which he did not recommend doing. If only Terry Allen(Peter Krause) in "Civic Duty" had followed such sage advice...(Not to mention the advice on the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.) Terry is an accountant who has just been laid off and lives with his photographer wife Marla(Kari Matchett). Together, they dream of owning their own house. In the meantime, along with watching the news, he dutifully sends out numerous copies of his resume while being distracted by the suspicious behavior of their new neighbor who is of Middle Eastern descent. To quell his fears, Marla visits him and learns his name is Gabe(Khaled Abol Naga) and that he is a graduate student. That's still not good enough for him, so he contacts an FBI Agent, Tom Hilary(Richard Schiff), who promises to look into it...While the banal and uninspired "Civic Duty" certainly has its heart in the right place by exploring the war on error, civil rights, racism and the lynch mob mentality (Terry's owning a gun speaks to his generally being afraid), it stumbles badly with wafer thin chracterizations.(But Richard Schiff does excel...) While the movie may have had a chance if it had been a play(Where the speechifying would have worked better), it is still hard to believe the story progressing beyond a certain point. I am sure a lot of people contact the FBI every day with their suspicions but that's probably as far as it ever goes. Even the situation feels dated by now. Usually after a great catastrophe, news watching is the norm to get as much information as possible but as time wears on, things return to normal as much as possible, which include television viewing patterns.

 

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