What You Need To Know:
Despite an open-ended ending, CIVIC DUTY establishes Terry as bigoted and closed-minded. As Terry holds Gabe hostage, Gabe states that Evil is not defined as a man who wants revenge for his wife who was killed by a U.S. tomahawk missile, Evil is what America has done in “many places like Vietnam, Somalia,” etc. Thus, CIVIC DUTY takes a politically correct, anti-American tone that is abhorrent. It also contains very strong foul language.
(HHH, PCPCPC, APAPAP, FRFR, Ho, B, LLL, V, S, N, A, DD, MM) Very strong humanist, politically correct, anti-American worldview where a patriotic American is seen as paranoid and a pro-Islamic character’s dialogue turns anti-American and makes excuses for terrorism, plus small reference to homosexuality also and one positive reference to God as voice of president is heard on a television as he says, “may God grant us wisdom and may He watch over the United States of America”; 39 obscenities (21 of which are “f” words) and a few light profanities (e.g., “My God,” “I swear to God,” etc.) as well as several racial slurs including the “N” word; light violence includes breaking and entering into a person’s apartment, a man pulls a gun on a suspected terrorist, man ties up suspected terrorist, man pushes his wife, man is punched and knocked out by the handle of a gun, and a woman is shot; light sexual content includes married couple kissing, married sex implied, and man makes comment about his wife’s rear; brief naturalistic upper male nudity, woman’s mid-riff and cleavage show in tight top and woman in revealing sleeping shirt; brief alcohol consumption includes man drinking beer; brief drug reference about having pot in the house and man takes meds in a psychiatric hospital; and strong miscellaneous immorality includes spying on a neighbor, breaking and entering, man lies to his wife, man taken prisoner, and vigilante action is taken.
Set in the politically tense environment of the United States just after the terrorist tragedies of September 11th, CIVIC DUTY tells the story of Terry Allen (Peter Krause), an average American who begins to suspect that the middle-eastern graduate student living in the apartment across from his may indeed be part of a terrorist sleeper cell.
After losing his job as an accountant, Terry spends most of his time in front of the television watching news report after news report about the latest updates in the War on Terror and the latest Terror Alert Level. After Gabe, an Arab-American grad student, moves into the apartment next door, Terry begins to notice some strange behavior from the new tenant. Terry’s wife brushes off his delusions and accuses him of acting just like those, “Right wing nut jobs,” but Terry is not deterred. After some of his own preliminary investigating, Terry contacts the FBI.
Frustrated by the FBI’s lack of concern, Terry takes matters into his own hands. His curiosity soon turns to obsession. He breaks into the apartment and notices some strange-looking lab equipment, boxes full of ATM envelopes and financial statements that show that Gabe is receiving monthly payments from an Islamic group. Driven to take vigilante action, Terry takes Gabe hostage at gunpoint in order to stop whatever vicious attack he thinks is about to take place. Gabe offers logical explanations to Terry for all the suspicious materials in the apartment, but Terry does not believe him. Tensions come to a head when a SWAT team, along with the FBI, surrounds the apartment. Terry is forced to determine if his actions are patriotic or paranoid.
CIVIC DUTY is a well-scripted, well-directed thriller. The director creates a tense environment for the story, and the editing gives the movie a frantic feeling of psychological displacement. For a small-budget movie with a mostly unknown cast, CIVIC DUTY proves that strong stories do not need huge Hollywood budgets and special effects with A-list stars.
The movie contains some cautionary and excessive moral and worldview elements, namely the continued Hollywood love affair with both anti-Americanism as well as pro-Islamic ideologies. As Terry says, in a Post-9/11 America, “we all need to be the eyes and ears now,” there is a villainous tone that eventually establishes Terry as the bigoted, closed-minded anti-hero of the movie.
In contrast, Gabe, the Arab-American who is portrayed as being a recluse who fits the stereotype of an Islamic fundamentalist, takes the role of the poor victim in this politically charged thriller. As Terry holds Gabe hostage, Gabe states that Evil is not defined as a man who wants revenge for his wife who was killed by a U.S. tomahawk missile, Evil is what America has done in “many places like Vietnam, Somalia,” etc. What a shame that filmmakers use their freedom of speech to desecrate the very name of the country that provided those freedoms.
The anti-American and pro-Islamic political elements, along with the movie’s strong foul language and miscellaneous immorality, earn CIVIC DUTY an abhorrent rating.