CIVIC DUTY
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Clearly we are living in a post-9/11 world. The
news media constantly barrages us with stories
that are meant to keep us on edge and the
political administration often would seemingly
attention from other bad news. (The latter point
is satirized in
AMERICAN DREAMZ.) In the
wake of the events of September 11,
2001, there were reported incidents where
people who looked "different" -- that is, had
olive complexions -- were attacked. Some were
Indian, some were Sikhs, some were Hispanics,
and some were Arabs. It didn't seem to matter,
they "looked the profile."

That is the subject of the tautly made suspense
thriller
CIVIC DUTY starring Peter Krause, Kari
Matchett and Khaled Abol Naga. The
film sparked a great deal of audience debate at
its screenings during the Tribeca Film Festival
and undoubtedly will as it reaches wider
audiences.

The movie starts off slowly. Accountant Terry
Allen (Krause) is seen striding out of a
Manhattan office building (although the film was
shot mostly in Vancouver, it is set in New York
and New Jersey). He arrives at a bank and the
audience soon learns that he is a victim of
downsizing. When he arrives home, he  
reluctantly tells his wife Marla (Matchett) about
the job loss, since it threatens the purchase of
their dream house. He promises to get another
job and sets out to do that -- until the arrival of
a mysterious Middle Eastern man (Abol Naga)
who leases an apartment in their complex.
Terry's suspicions are aroused when he notices
that the man moves in with few belongings and
arrives after midnight. With a cable news
channel almost constantly spewing forth a
stream of stories about possible terror plots and
suicide bombings, Terry begins to suspect his
neighbor may be more than just a grad student
(as he told Marla). Soon, Terry is following the
man and calling in the FBI (in the form of
Richard Schiff) before deciding to take matters
into his own hands.

I won't give any more of the plot away, as it
involves numerous twists and turns. Suffice it to
say that director Jeff Renfroe, making his solo
feature directing debut, knows how to use the
camera to ratchet up the tension.

The principal actors deliver strong performances.
Krause is light years away from his television
persona and displays a range that is
astonishing. Matchett (whom some may
recognize from the short-lived ABC series
"Invasion") is fine as Krause's increasingly
concerned wife. Abol Naga, a well known model
and actor in his native Egypt, as the neighbor
matches Krause's intensity. Schiff offers strong
support as the somewhat irascible FBI agent.
Andrew Joiner's clever and layered screenplay
just may be one of the best of the year,
particularly as it requires thought and may even
spark debate. Special mention should also be
made of the editing (by director Renfroe) and
the stunning camerawork by Dylan McLeod.



Rating:                A-
MPAA Rating:       R
Running time:       94 mins.  
Peter Krause as Terry Allen in
CIVIC DUTY