123 of 139 people found the following review helpful
A Disturbing Indie Provocation That Is As Unbelievable As It Is True,
This review is from: Compliance (DVD)
Craig Zobel's powerful true story "Compliance" is one of those movies that almost dares you to look away. As a tense situation grows increasingly uncomfortable, the viewer becomes complicit as a voyeur and participant in a waking nightmare. Just as everyone on screen should know better and should display more sound judgement, you can't tear your eyes from the unbelievable and quite disturbing tale unfolding. It may be the most squirm inducing film of the year. Having caught "Compliance" at a tiny arthouse theater, I heard a lot of discussion outside in the lobby. A fair number of people simply didn't believe that the events depicted in the film could happen. But here's the thing, Zobel's script adheres very closely to the facts of an actual event! There isn't a lot of extraneous fictional material added in for dramatic affect, this sticks to the truth in a straightforward and matter-of-fact way. Based on a real life occurrence in 2004 at a Kentucky McDonalds, the movie's screenplay recreates (although in a fictional setting) what occurred in that store almost exactly according to the restaurant's security video, police reports, and court transcripts.
On an average day at your local Ohio Chickwich, the harried manager (Ann Dowd) receives an officious phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer. He identifies a young employee (Dreama Walker) as a thief saying that a woman customer has reported her taking money from her purse earlier in the day. Claiming he has already spoken to Dowd's District Manager, he asks for her cooperation in expediting the investigation while his team is detained. What follows, playing out in basically 90 minutes of real time, is a psychological manipulation that will have long reaching repercussions. Everyone wants to cooperate with authority (Dowd has already displeased her boss with one blunder today), and no one seems willing to challenge the caller even as things start spiraling out of control. The movie establishes fairly early on that this is all a sadistic prank, and once the caller has the store on the hook--he wants to see how far he can push things. Humiliating, debasing, and assaulting Walker, "Compliance" really starts to examine human nature and our willingness to please.
I won't be any more specific. I will, however, say that "Compliance" has one random scene near the end that is absolutely brilliant in its understatement. Once the police are involved, we spend a wordless journey in the cruiser as an officer drives from the station to the restaurant. At first, I wondered why we were along for this ride. But it makes perfect sense. Zobel, in a minimalist approach, is showing just how close actual help and police were during the entire ordeal. "Compliance" succeeds on two very strong performances. Dowd, a great character actress relishing a leading role, is perfect as the woman caught in this moral dilemma. And Walker, whose defiance slips away to resignation, proves she's one to contend with. It's a demanding role and she is definitely up to the task. I can't say that "Compliance" is fun or entertaining, though, because it purposefully seeks to provoke. It's not a movie you will feel ambivalent about--love it or hate it, you will remember it and talk about it. In that, it is an unqualified success. KGHarris, 10/12.
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Initial post: Jan 14, 2013 3:29:22 PM PST
Posted on Jan 22, 2013 4:51:10 AM PST
I don't think what was going on the film would be considered a prank, more like a sex crime where the caller is actually getting off in the submissiveness of the others in the fast food joint and their willingness to sexually assault a coworker for him. A prank is something to laugh about later, you can't laugh over the stuff that happens in this film.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2013 11:48:56 AM PST
Posted on Mar 10, 2013 12:30:36 PM PDT
Dodge DeBoulet says:
@Dave and @KF:
Why wouldn't a provocative film deserve a high rating, especially if the topic is presented in as riveting (and factual!) form as it was in *this* film? If you simply go to the movies looking for laughs or to watch stuff get blowed up real good, that's fine. But there are an awful lot of people out there that go with the intent of being intellectually or emotionally challenged. This film offers both in spades, with excellent performances all around.
As far as @KF's criticism of the "women-are-gullible" assumption is concerned . . . well, sorry, apparently some are. The real-life pervert fictionalized in this film perpetrated 70 similar acts in businesses across 30 states. Men were in no way exempt from gullibility either; the store manager's boyfriend fell for the ruse even harder than she herself did.
Oh, and the review appears to have 4 stars, not 5. That may have changed since you posted, of course.
I think it's an entirely fair rating.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2013 4:54:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 11, 2013 5:08:52 AM PDT
I cannot respond for KF, but as far as I am concerned provocation does not earn a film a high rating. While you considered the film to be "riveting", I found it to be an annoying waste of my time. I am quite surprised by your implication that the film was intellectually stimulating since none of the characters possessed any sign of intelligence except for possibly the teenage male. If there was a point to this film, it is how stupid and gullible people can be. How could you have been intellectually stimulated unless your normal level of intellect is uninspired? As far as emotive qualities of films: to each his own. Additionally, your presumptuous implication that I view a movie to laugh or to watch things get "blowed" [sic] up is ridiculous since there were no statements in my review that could have given than impression. Attributing such a motivation to someone you do not know is a fallacy of your emotions' manufacture because my thoughts differed from your feelings. Also, filmmakers take liberty with "true" stories in an attempt to make them more engrossing. This means that such films are not true, or actual. The film's description even says it was "inspired by true events". There is no claim of actuality or level of accuracy. Lastly, as of this writing 27% of the 177 reviewers gave this film a 1 star rating, while only 14% gave it 5 stars. That is quite a margin in favor of 1 star. Why is it that you chose to comment on only two of the 1 star reviews when many others were more negative? Lighten up; they are only opinions of a minor film.
Posted on Mar 12, 2013 9:42:43 PM PDT
Lara G. Galindo says:
KGHarris, I agree entirely with almost everything you wrote, but the following scene--where you "wondered why were along" for the ride, "Once the police are involved, we spend a wordless journey in the cruiser as an officer drives from the station to the restaurant..."--I still feel was a waste of 2+ minutes of screen time. The officer has minimal facial expressions; perhaps the actor and director thought that his lighting a cigarette was a telling detail? I would have thought that on a limited budget, Zobel could have used these two minutes better. I get your point, "Zobel, in a minimalist approach, is showing just how close actual help and police were during the entire ordeal," but there had to have been a more direct, "minimalist" way to convey this.
Indeed, the final sequence, with lawyers and journalists, etc., asking their questions is laughably rushed. The movie lost me from the moment the cop---markedly UNidentified as such, until he decides to turn on his red-n-blues---through the end. From the beginning until that moment, I was in this movie's thrall.
Like you, I was aware that the film was CLOSELY based on real events. Stomach-churning!
Posted on Mar 18, 2013 8:30:31 PM PDT
Stephanie Paolinelli says:
It was extremely uncomfortable to watch, and during the sexual scene, I fast forwarded. I know for a fact I would never be guillable enough to fall for any of that. I have a natural cynicism and distrust of authority, but I know there are people out there who are like
that will cower to any authority no matter what. It is frightening and enlightening, not an easy watch but well done. I give it 4 stars
for the acting, and technique the director used to make an unbelievable occurence real. There are some really sick people out there,
I was disappointed they didn't show the arrest.
Posted on Mar 20, 2013 4:11:42 PM PDT
alex bushman says:
Posted on Jun 4, 2013 9:53:58 PM PDT
E. T. Brock says:
This situation, in the movie or in real life, could have been stopped very early on if the store manager knew her rights under the law. If she did she would have known that the girl's rights were being trampled. And she would have known she had no right to detain this girl. Both in moral judgement and in ignorance of the law the store manager failed as a mature adult.
Also, if the young lady being accused had been educated by someone like a parent or teacher she would have known to get mad and outraged. This is America!
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