Civic Duty

"Bad"

Civic Duty Review


A year after its debut at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival and a week before Julia Loktev's striking Day Night Day Night is released, Jeff Renfroe gets his chance to turn the crank on the terrorist tinker-toy, to the terror of every Red Stater in the country, in this sophomore effort. Aping Rear Window with every tricky nuance, Renfroe's rollicking contraption of misguided paranoia and bootstrap ideologies is a nightmare both in its narrative and in its execution.

Freshly fired with kind words, accountant Terry Allen (Six Feet Under's Peter Krause) comes home to his loving wife Marla (Kari Matchett) with nothing to do. At first, Terry spends all day wading through want ads, flipping through the television, practicing some calisthenics, and generally being bored. Then one day a "Middle Eastern guy" named Gabe Hassan (an underwrought but riveting Khaled Abol Naga) moves into a lower apartment across the way from Terry. With the television bursting with post-9/11 imagery, Terry becomes interested and quickly builds a case against Gabe. This leads him to an FBI agent (Richard Schiff) and a whole new world of trouble as he tries everything from innuendo to straight-out bullying to get Gabe to confess to something.

Civic Duty descends into a world of panic and dread without a single hesitation. Terry is the perfect white male: beautiful wife, good job, and a decent apartment with room to spare and an authentic Chinese rug. He quickly loses these things (save the wife) and soon becomes the nightmarish stuff of NPR folklore. There's something to be said for the fact that the nutjob is created only after he becomes homeless and bored, unable to start a family.

The fantasy of a vigilante birthed from listlessness is tested by an ending that can be best described as freaking daffy. The film ends, and then it ends again, but the point of this isn't fluid enough to considered political ambiguity. If anything, this paltry stab at "what if..." accepts Terry's personal guilt and then, in a momentary drift, says "wait!" As an attempt at balance, it's half-assed, and as reassurance, it's laughable and immature.

In the guise of a thriller, Renfroe has attempted to craft a statement on the American male in the modern state of paranoia. Valiant, of course, but here Renfroe seems to blame everyone but Terry himself. If anything, terrorism is a family matter and the attempt at showing Terry as truly deranged becomes unlikely and straight-out ridiculous after the whiplash ending. Renfroe blames the television shows, the loss of job, the abandonment of government, and several other factors that really could be chalked up to the filmmaker's own insecurities. Nervous or not, Renfroe's film has the stink of a bad news story used to spin an argument, when really it's just a conversation.

You wanna supersize that?



Civic Duty

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Thursday 11th September 2008

Box Office USA: $54.9k

Distributed by: Freestyle Releasing/Yari Film Group

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 24

IMDB: 6.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jeff Renfroe

Producer: Kim Roberts, , Andrew Joiner, Andrew Lanter, Tina Pehme

Starring: as Marla Allen, as FBI Agent Tom Hilary, خالد أبو النجا as Gabe Hassan, as Terry Allen

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Advertisement
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.