A downmarket Rear Window for the post-9/11 world, Civic Duty places Six Feet Under star Peter Krause in the Jimmy Stewart role, only instead of being laid up with a broken leg he's an emotional cripple, stuck at home because he keeps getting fired from his accounting jobs for unexplained but suspicious reasons and vulnerable enough to the 'stay vigiliant' burblings of the nightly news that he starts to pay regular attention to the activities of his neighbor -- "the middle-eastern guy." Why does this middle-eastern guy insist on using a nearby payphone to make calls even though he carries a cell phone with him? Why does he wait until three in the morning to take his garbage out? These and other questions weigh on the mind of Terry Allen (Krause) and cause predictable problems with his wife Marla (Kari Matchett.) When a healthy impulse eventually kicks in -- to simply go knock on the neighbor's door and voice his concerns -- things get worse instead of better and Allen begins to suspect he's stumbled onto an actual terrorist plot.
Krause is a good choice to play the paranoid straight-arrow Allen, with his ability to lace every word of dialogue with a hint of sarcasm and a 'smarter-than-thou' tone. In all of his roles, he seems perpetually on the verge of a mid-life crisis that will have a body count, and Civic Duty is a good venue for him to play around with that and flex those acting muscles. In order for this character to get from A to Z we have to believe that he wouldn't be receptive to advice from his long-suffering wife or even the increasingly alarmed FBI, to whom he places hushed calls at a regular interval, trying to enlist them in his campaign to stop whatever is going to happen before it happens. Allen even manages to get himself a regular FBI contact, played by The West Wing's Richard Schiff, but as his decisions become more and more rash, it starts to seem like Schiff's character has been assigned not to keep tabs on the possible terrorist, but Allen.