May 4, 2007, - 3:37 pm

“Civic Duty”: It’s Your Duty to Skip This Pan-Islamist Canadian Propaganda

By Debbie Schlussel
If you see a Muslim immigrant engaged in suspicious behavior, you should (pick one):

a) report it to the FBI and be on the lookout for other behavior by this individual and his associates;
b) cash in your portfolio, fly to Vegas on Hooters Air, and bet on the likelihood of the next terrorist attack;
c) terrorists? Who cares about terrorists? Time to watch the game tonight,and then it’s time for beers and a meeting with my bookie; or

civicdutymovieposter.jpgarlingtonroad.jpg

“Civic Duty” is a Bad Rip-off of “Arlington Road”

d) head to your local Christian-Jewish-Muslim interfaith vegan lesbian women’s basketball and dialogue club, so you can all focus on our common love of fattoush. Why focus on our differences when we all have in common things like going to the bathroom and blowing our noses?

If you answered anything but a), then “Civic Duty“–which comes out in limited release in New York and Los Angeles, today–is not meant for you, as you are already doing the right thing to make this a better world. (It will be released in the rest of the country in the next two weeks.) If you answered a), then “Civic Duty” is there to tell you what a crazy, bigoted loser and Nazi you are for daring to think such a thing.
While Civic Duty is new to theaters, in fact the same movie was already released in 8 years ago. It’s called “Arlington Road.” The 1999 film is well done, while Civic Duty isn’t. The former is riveting and thrilling, while the latter is boring and slow, moving in stops and starts. And one other key difference:
In Arlington Road, the main character who suspects his neighbors are terrorists is portrayed sympathetically, and he is 100% right. In Civic Duty, the main character who suspects his neighbor is a terrorist is a jerk, and he seems to be 100% wrong.
So, why the different portrayals? Well, it could have a lot to do with the identity of the suspected terrorists. In “Arlington Road,” they are good Christians and right-wing terrorists. In “Civic Duty,” neighbor Gabe Hassan (played by Khaled Abol Naga) is an Arab Muslim. And how dare we suspect our Arab Muslim neighbors of terrorism . . . even if all the signs are there.
Other than that, the plots are almost identical and the similarities eerie. Both main characters suspect their neighbors are terrorists, both have homely blonde love interests who doubt them and get all bitchy about it, and both involve contact with doubting FBI agents who warn them to stay away.
I watched “Arlington Road,” again, last night to refresh my memory and compare how Hollywood celebrates every kook who sees right-wing militia conpiracies everywhere, but denounces those who worry about the very real threat of Islamic terrorists in our midst.
The tagline of “Arlington Road”–appearing on the DVD cover–is: “Your Paranoia is Real.” The message on its movie posters is “Fear They Neighbor.” The message of “Civic Duty” is: “Your Suspicions About Strange Muslim Neighbors with Chemical Labs in Their Kitchens are Absurd.”
Then, there are the characters. Civic Duty’s Peter Krause plays an obnoxious accountant who is rude and paranoid. Not likeable at all. He’s a loser who can’t hold on to a job and is even mean to cheerful bank tellers. From the opening scene, we see him screaming at the bank employee because she dares to call an ATM an “ATM Machine.” After all, since the M stands for Machine, no-one but complete morons would call it an ATM Machine, and they deserve to be severely verbally abused for daring to utter that redundant term. Yes, this is the jerk who is suspicious about his new Arab Muslim neighbor.
Contrast that with Arlington Road’s protagonist, Jeff Bridges. He plays a sympathetic, gentle professor, whose adoring FBI agent wife was killed at a Ruby Ridge style fiasco. He’s struggling to move on and convince his young son he loves him. And he’s an expert on right-wing terrorist groups. So he knows what he’s talking about.
And the contrasts continue on throughout both movies. The key difference: While in Arlington Road, Bridges turns out to be 100% accurate that his neighbors are part of an extensive right-wing cell (which includes his students) that plots to blow up the J. Edgar Hoover Building (and frames him for it), Civic Duty’s accountant, Peter Krause, is mostly shown to be a crazed, violent nutcase, who suspects terrorist operations based on mistaken assumptions without much evidence of anything, but for his prejudice.
**** SPOILER ALERT ****
Yes, there is a teeny-tiny, possible confirmation at the end of the movie that the Muslim neighbor was, indeed, a terrorist. But it’s ambiguous. Krause breaks into his Muslim neighbor’s apartment. He follows him and searches his trash. He sees Hassan engaged in suspicious behavior, such as taking and keeping piles of empty ATM envelopes from various banks around town. And he sees that Hassan’s kitchen has been transformed into an extensive lab. Hassan explains it away, saying he is a chemistry grad student studying how to further purify tap water by extracting Prussic acid from it.
At the end of the film, Krause with his Arab neighbor hostage, ends up in a police stand-off. The FBI tells him that his neighbor has been checked and cleared. Krause accidentally shoots and kills his wife, and he is in a mental hospital. We hear a newscast in which it is announced that a new terrorist attack has taken place in which people are poisoned from licking ATM envelopes laced Cyanide from Prussic Acid.
So, was the neighbor a terrorist? We arent’ really told. And “Civic Duty” wants to you to wonder. The makers of this film want you to doubt yourself when you think about reporting Muslims behaving suspiciously. It’s not that they are terrorist, it’s that you are nuts. That’s quite the opposite of Arlington Road’s message.
Aside from the boredom inspired by Civic Duty, it’s not believable. It doesn’t help much when a movie set in the U.S. features mostly actors with Canadian accents (it was shot in Canada). And the use of President Bush’s speeches is excessive. We get it–Bush is inspiring paranoia and violence against Muslims, says this film. Plus, the movie is outdated. It’s supposed to take place just after 9/11. The whole flick seems like old news annoyingly attempting irrelevant didactics.
If there’s one thing I think the movie did get right, it’s the incompetence of the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts. While Krause’s character suspects the wrong kind of terrorist plot, he’s right that there was one. But, instead, the demeaning FBI agent (Richard Schiff) misses it all and attacks him for his zealotry.
But the only zealotry in connection with this film should be your zealous avoidance of wasting your ten bucks on it at the theater.
Instead of “Civic Duty,” its producers would have been better advised to remake “Arlington Road” with Muslim terrorists in place of Tim Robbins’ and Joan Cusack’s right-wing Christian ones.

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8 Responses

Just because a movie was shot in Canada doesn’t necessarily make it a Canadian movie. Hollyweird shots a lot of movies in Canada to save costs.
Brokeback Mountain’s beautiful Wyoming landscape is actually a few miles south of Calgary.

stevecanuck on May 4, 2007 at 5:10 pm

Debbie, you noted: “Instead of ‘Civic Duty,’ its producers would have been better advised to remake ‘Arlington Road’ with Muslim terrorists in place of Tim Robbins’ and Joan Cusack’s right-wing Christian ones.”
Exactly! Now, that might have been a great movie, and I certainly wouldn’t mind shelling out ten bucks or so to see it. But we’ll never know, since no one in Hollyweird will EVER touch that story with a ten-foot pole.
Loved the “ATM machine” line. Possibly the best one of those, however, is the “VIN number,” which you hear ALL the time, the “N” in VIN, of course, standing for “number!”

theendisnear on May 4, 2007 at 5:17 pm

theendisnear is dead on about Hollyweird taking the easy way out. It’s just another example of self-imposed dhimmitude.
Speaking of that, did anyone catch the last “Family Guy”. Stewie was fantasizing about meeting Jesus. He saw Jesus taking a bath standing in a tub (only shown from the waist up), and when Jesus saw Stewie looking at him, his body-washing motions slowed down into self-caressing motions. Then he held the sponge above his head and wrung it so that water from it washed all the suds from his body, giving Stewie a full monty.
Now, can you imagine the state of the world today if only ONE thing about that was changed – substitue Mohamed for Jesus and the world would be burning as we speak.
I should write a book called dhimmitude for dhummis, because it’s just so damned obvious that western society is running scared.

stevecanuck on May 4, 2007 at 5:39 pm

Yeah, I agree! It’s another amaurosis attempt by Holyweed to brainwash Americans again.
What they are saying is if you report terrorist activity in your neighborhood you COULD be a nut! Nice try…. cowards!

ReallyReallyStupid on May 6, 2007 at 9:28 pm

“…western society is running scared.”
Sickening but true. Another tragic result of a culture forgetting God (as people like Solzhenitzen warned us against)and having things too easy, too convenient, for too long. The “Liberal” Elites who, unfortunately, call the shots in the West don’t know any way of dealing with belligerent enemies other than brown-nosing and appeasment; thus, in Smellywood the rule has long been to depict movie terrorists as white Neo-Nazis/Christians rather than Communists or Muslims. Despite their claims of “standing up to dangerous elements”, they know in their hearts that there is no risk in presenting such stuff- it’s just one of their myriad ways of siding up with the bullies, whom they fear, against people whom they don’t fear, but despise. But, hey, they feel good about themselves while doing it, and that’s what’s important to them…

Toa on May 7, 2007 at 12:53 pm

Your opinion of the movie just shows once more that people tend to find in movies more or less what they bring to them. You bring the one-sided view that Muslims and/or Arabs are all suspicious and “bad” in the widest sense, so a movie that doesn’t tell you that the Muslim/Arab is a terrorist is falling short of your expectations. I, on the other hand, like movies that ask questions and make me think rather than just provide ready-made answers, so I actually enjoyed it. Why should I waste 2 hours to be told something I already know? “Only” retelling once again the well-known stereotype that all Muslims are evil and all Christians are great would’ve been immensely boring to me. Where I agree with you is that the anger & mental problems of the main character were a bad idea of the movie script, and I found the entire “mental hospital” issue a major disappointment… even though for me, the disappointment was that it devalued the questions asked–as if the questions about right and wrong had no relevance to sane people! As if all the insecurity and wondering were just the result of a mental disorder! But also portraying the self-righteous vigilante arrogance as just a mental problem. Yes, it was exaggerated (another problem of the movie), but defining it just as a mental disorder makes the movie a less interesting “psychologically sick guy is misbehaving” flick…

But you make me want to watch Arlington Road again. While I generally didn’t like it very much (not enough “thinking” for my taste), I never watched it as a tale about Christian terrorists, but about the nice neighbors from nextdoors being potential terrorists… i.e. again a story that does not just build or repeat any stereotypes. ‘t will be interesting to watch it again and see if I think differently now.

AnnA on February 9, 2010 at 8:29 am

Ha. You might want to go back and take another look at this film, post Boston Marathon. It’s kind of eerie how everyone thought this guy was “the model student” and its similarity to one Dzhokar Tsarneav.

Susan on April 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

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