Civic Duty (2006)

R   |    |  Drama, Thriller

Civic Duty (2006) Poster

An American accountant bombarded with cable news and the media's obsession with terrorist plots in the post 9-11 world, receives a jolt when an unattached Islamic graduate student moves in next door.

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  • Peter Krause and Kari Matchett in Civic Duty (2006)
  • Peter Krause in Civic Duty (2006)
  • Jeff Renfroe in Civic Duty (2006)
  • Peter Krause in Civic Duty (2006)
  • Peter Krause in Civic Duty (2006)
  • Peter Krause and Kari Matchett in Civic Duty (2006)

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Jeff Renfroe


Andrew Joiner

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15 July 2008 | Buddy-51
| Intriguing premise that loses its way
"Civic Duty" is like "Rear Window" for the post-9/11 age. Terry Allen is a recently laid-off accountant who, thanks in large part to an ubiquitous, sensation-seeking news media, has become increasingly obsessed with the "terrorist threat" plaguing the Western world. When a young Middle Eastern man moves into an apartment across the way, Terry immediately goes into surveillance mode, spying on his every move, following him around town, breaking into his home, and even reporting him to what Terry quickly learns, much to his dismay, is a decidedly uninterested and unconcerned FBI. Soon, his life and marriage are falling apart as he plunges ever deeper into his paranoia-driven madness.

"Civic Duty" starts off as a reasonably compelling psychological thriller, but the longer the movie goes on the more far-fetched and heavy-handed it becomes. Peter Krause, who was so subtle and effective as the star of "Six Feet Under," is forced to go so over-the-top in his performance here that we begin to fear he'll burst a blood vessel long before the movie is over. The underlining doesn't stop there, however, for Jeff Renfroe"s direction is filled with any number of hokey touches, including panning wildly or having the camera do virtual somersaults anytime anything even remotely sinister or suspenseful is about to take place.

The movie first points out how the media, obsessed with profits and ratings, finds it necessary to bombard us with a steady stream of potential terror threats, both real and manufactured, on an around-the-clock basis - and then questions what kind of effect such sensory overload might have on an already unstable personality. And, beyond that, might the media and the political class it serves be turning all of us, to some degree or another, into raging paranoiacs, ready to pry into our neighbors' private business in the cause of national security? Unfortunately, this provocative theme gets buried under a truckload of paranoid-thriller clichés.

Kari Matchett, Khaled Abol Naga and Richard Schiff ("The West Wing") do well in their various roles, but the movie, well intentioned though it is, falls far short of its potential.

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