Good, Not Feel-Good
About a year ago, I posted an entry about a little known film called The War Within, which I admired for its refusal to satisfy our kneejerk expectations of a happy ending.
Now I have seen another film that does the same thing. Civic Duty is a UK-Canada-US production whose protagonist is not a Pakistani suicide bomber wandering around New York, but an all-American accountant, Terry (Peter Krause), who happens to be down on his luck. Having lost his job and with too much time on his hands, Terry becomes obsessed with the mysterious doings of his new Middle Eastern neighbor, Gabe (Khaled Abol Naga).
Terrifically acted, the film engages in too many pseudo-artsy camera tricks for my taste. But this is a small vice compared with its major virtue: a courageous script that, like The War Within, encourages us to draw conventional conclusions then yanks each one away.
Terry is a media-manipulated reactionary who carries suspicion too far ... or is he? Gabe is an angry Muslim but innocent of any crime ... or is he? There's no hero, though Terry's girlfriend Marla (Kari Matchett) comes close. But even her love for Terry and trusting good nature do not produce the Hollywood resolution we crave. And much as I love Hollywood, on this topic I prefer irresolution.