Civic Duty

Civic Duty

2007, R, 98 min. Directed by Jeff Renfroe. Starring Peter Krause, Khaled Abol Naga, Richard Schiff, Kari Matchett, Ian Tracey.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 4, 2007

Civic Duty stands out amid the new wave of terrorism-paranoia thrillers. It's a taut drama set primarily within the confines of two apartments in the same urban building complex and keeps the viewer guessing until the end regarding the reliability of its two central protagonists. The line separating civic duty from vigilantism is constantly shifting and challenging our allegiances to these characters. In the film, Six Feet Under's Krause plays an accountant named Terry Allen (a character whose disposition is so different from the identically named artist/musician that it's clear the filmmakers selected the name out of ignorance rather than homage). We learn in the film's opening moments that Terry has been laid off from his job, which consequently allows him more time to hang around his apartment working on his résumé and fretting about the down payment on the house that he and his understanding wife (Matchett) intend to buy. Everywhere, he is subtly bombarded by warnings emphasizing the terror threat and the need for extra scrutiny. When an Arab man (Naga) with few possessions moves in downstairs, Terry's curiosity is aroused, and he begins to follow the man and, eventually, enters his apartment to search it when the man is not home. Although Terry also calls in the FBI, he seems put off by the lack of alarm demonstrated by the agent (Schiff, of The West Wing, again wonderfully underplaying). Terry's agitation drives his wife away and we, too, come to doubt Terry's grip on reality. Yet, his discoveries also become more and more curious. Dramatically, the script by Andrew Joiner keeps the pot boiling ’til the last drop is drained. However, director Renfroe's excessively busy camerawork and green fluorescent-looking glow distract from the proceedings, as does Krause's equally frenetic performance. Once the story's events reach a climactic pitch, the film stagnates in place for too long and loses momentum. But while Civic Duty is truly ticking, there's no telling when and if it's going to detonate.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Peter Krause Films
We Don't Live Here Anymore
What people fight about when they fight about love.

Kimberley Jones, Sept. 3, 2004

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Everybody Knows
Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem charm in this slight tale of lost loves and kidnapping

Feb. 22, 2019

Never Look Away
Art history drama set across and after the Third Reich has few lessons to teach

Feb. 22, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Civic Duty, Jeff Renfroe, Peter Krause, Khaled Abol Naga, Richard Schiff, Kari Matchett, Ian Tracey

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle