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Compliance
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on May 31, 2015
The movie, which is a reenactment of an actual incident, portrays how easy it is for a predatory caller to manipulate his (or her) victims. This is particularly true if the predator knows a little about the victims. In this case, as a customer in the fast food restaurant he overheard some employee conversations, including emplyoee names & the name of the district manager. Coincidentally, the night before, one of the supervisor's employees had left a refrigerator door open causing the spoilage of $1,500 worth of bacon which reflected badly on her supervisory skills. This caused her to be in a heightened state anxiety. The caller did not know about the spoilage but armed with the little knowledge he overheard he managed to portray himself as an authority figure (in this case a policeman). Speaking to the supervisor he claimed that a customer had reported a theft by a female employee (whose name I forget) & that he was investigating it. He also said that he had spoken to the district manager, using the manager's name. He manipulated her by a combination of flattery & coercion to enlist other employees in an "interrogation" process that slowly escalated to strip searching, humiliation & sexual activity. At 1 point, speaking to the victim, he threatend her with a night in a jail cell if she did not stop protesting her innocence. He demanded that she adddress him as "officer."
The movie shows us how easy it is to manipulate vulnerable people, particularly the young, the naive, the poorly educated who might, in other circumstances, realize that this is illegal but were disarmed by the circumstances. By no means is this vulnerability limited to this group. It can happen to anyone. I found the movie very compelling.
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on January 21, 2014
This is squirm-inducing, just like the reviewer said. I remember the original case. It enraged me then, and watching the movie enrages me again.
Many years ago, pre-internet, I was in a customer service job, where they trained us that people would call pretending to be police officers. Our response was to ask the officer for his name and department, and tell him we'd call back. We were then supposed to call information for the police department number, call that police department, ask for officer so-and-so, and give him contact information for our corporate legal department. You know, in three years I only called one police department? The rest of those "police" callers hung up.
My point being that the restaurant manager portrayed by Ann Dowd was a monumentally naive and stupid woman. I mean nobody gets be 38 years old and be that dumb, you'd think, but companies that pay low wages look for those people and they find them.
My hat's off to anyone who can convince me their character is that stupid and yet functions in the world.
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on January 20, 2013
Even the most twisted, demented screenwriter could not have come up with the story for Compliance if it had not actually happened. I remember hearing news accounts of the story of a Kentucky McDonald's manager who strip-searched a female employee at the behest of a prank caller who claimed to be a police officer investigating a theft by the employee. Prior to watching the movie, I did some googling to refresh my memory. ***POSSIBLE SPOILERS*** At least three other employees were present at various points during the more than three hours long ordeal. The prank caller even got the manager's fiance involved, encouraging him to spank and sexually assault the employee. Shockingly, the fiance went along with the requests with little resistance. ***END SPOILERS***

All of these disgusting events are portrayed in the film. It's impossible to understand how not one person stepped in to help Becky, played by Dreama Walker from the TV show, "Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23." It's also hard not to ask why Becky did not march out of the restaurant. Even the prank caller, who starts off as just an anonymous voice on the phone, but is eventually shown puttering around his house during the call, chuckles in disbelief at various times as the situation continues to spiral out of control.

Ann Dowd does a marvelous job as the store manager, Sandra. She is sympathetic towards Becky, but she is eager to obey authority, and the conflict shows. At the same time, she was the one with the most ability, just by virtue of her position, to bring the whole thing to a halt, and she chose not to.

This movie is very difficult to watch, particularly because we know it was based on an actual event. I would not go so far as to say this is a study of human behavior, because I believe there are very few people who would actually fall victim to this sort of crime. Indeed, we learn that there were many similar prank calls attempted, possibly by the same perpetrator, but none went as far as the Kentucky McDonald's one did. Instead, it is a depiction of one very uniquely subservient group of people who were unlucky enough to become the random targets of a twisted individual.
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on November 4, 2013
Many have complained about how unbelievable this story is; many others have countered with the fact that COMPLIANCE is based on a string of incidents that actually happened several years back. The very fact that this film has generated so much controversy and made people stop to wonder "What would _I_ have done?" says a great deal in its favor.

Yes, you would think that someone would eventually get the bright idea to at least call the local police or the restaurant's district manager to verify that "Officer Daniels" is for real, especially when his directions become entirely perverse. COMPLIANCE is another reminder of the old saw that truth is stranger than fiction: This story would be absolutely ludicrous if it were NOT closely based on actual events.

Pros:

--Good script and acting, especially by Dowd, Walker,and Philip Ettinger. Their tones of voice, postures, and facial expressions are captured very well. These actors act and react just as people would under these circumstances.

--Pretty gripping storyline, and the admonitory message of the film is not so heavy-handed that it destroys the tension and basic watchability.

--The irony of how young, unreliable Kevin and Harold the simple-minded janitor are the only ones to immediately see the absurdity of the situation-- while the more "responsible" adults just do as they're told--is not lost.

--No prolonged views of Becky during the strip-search. While this omission may disappoint some folks, gratuitous nudity would have completely killed the film's integrity.

Cons:

--As stated, the whole story is compelling, but at the same time, COMPLIANCE has that patchy flavor that so many low budget Indies have. It often seems more like a rough draft than a final one.

--The search and all the going back and forth over the phone get a bit ponderous after a while. A little less here and a little more on the aftermaths for everyone involved would have made this good film better.
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on December 4, 2015
As a film historian, Compliance was indeed my pick for Best Film Of The Year for 2012. It was underseen and shunned by most major awards, though as you can see was quite critically acclaimed. Ann Dowd should've had an Oscar nomination; though all the performances were raw and intense. The film is very difficult to watch in subject matter, focusing highly on the sexual assault of a young woman. The tension and suspense are nail biting. That this film is based on a series of actual events makes it even more terrifying. From an historian's perspective, I find it sad that this film did not have a wider audience; most are not even aware of it. But absolutely, if you can stomach it - get the kids out of the room, and prepare not to breathe for the next ninety minutes. It is absolute perfection which will make you sick to your stomach and make you think twice about what may or may not be going on in your neighborhood burger joint.
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on December 24, 2014
Compliance may be one of the more disturbing and sad movies that I have seen in some time. It showcases how misguided, if not stupid, people can be in life. It is another examination into human behavior and an examination on Authority, how it is viewed and how people handle compliance with orders. I will no spend a paragraph discussing the psychological context for this story, or even the parallels with the Nazis, as it has been handled better in other reviews here.

This is a movie that is based on a true story, but that it putting it mildly as it is essentially note for note what occurred in real life. When a fast food store manager receives a call from somebody identifying themselves as a police offer and informs her that one of her employees has stolen from a customer, what ensues is a startling examination into how far a person will go to help authority and how far another will comply with orders in an effort to avoid punishment.

There were many moments where I would think to myself that there is no way this could happen and yet it did happen. The performances and filming were solid and them movie proceeded at a decent pace. I found the ending scenes in particular to be sad, distorted looks into people who did bad things, but don't view themselves as bad people.

This one is definitely more of a rental, but it will certainly disturb the viewer.
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on June 1, 2015
A police officer calls a fast food place and tells the manager one of the girls working there stole some money from a customer. When the manager gets the girl in the back office, she is threatened into strip searching her. The manager has to keep working in the front, having to have other people watch the girl as the cop directs, who instructs them to do stranger things to her. I found it repulsive but had to see it thru to the end. Glad I did. A good film with good actors.
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on February 17, 2018
Well acted movie that explores how we react to authority and at what point we would stop and question it. Some other reviewers have mentioned that they don't believe that people would fall for the fake officer's call, but I have seen much worse. We all would like to believe we would have questioned the call and helped "Becky" but would we? Would we make all the right choices?
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on October 26, 2013
I first thought the film was unlikely to be ‘inspired by true events’, despite having a vague memory of reports of such incidents.

I was wrong. The events portrayed in the film are a close match to what happen in the Mt. Washington Kentucky MacDonald’s in 2004.
If one Goggles ‘Mt Washington Kentucky MacDonald’s prank’ you can read ABC News reports of the convictions and of the 6 million dollar legal victory of the actual victim, as well as view 20/20 video of interviews with those involved, including portions of censure security tape of what rational people could only consider to be three hours of mental and physical torture of the victim.

I suspect that if the filmmakers had the agreement of the victim and Macdonald’s (highly unlikely) ‘Compliance’ could have been made as a documentary that would have won raves at Sundance.

I was aware of the research concerning how easy people comply with perceived authority while in college 40 years ago and certainly aware, even earlier as a draftee in the Army, that the lack of ‘common sense’ is all too common at all levels and people that behave stupidly under stress usually results from a two digit IQ or unreal inflated belief in their skills and ability.

I would urge those that view ‘Compliance’ to ‘suspend disbelief’ and only confirm the reality the film was based on only after viewing the film, if, as I was, unable not to yell at the unrealistic stupid actions of the fast food manager character and feel helpless rage at strange perverted actions of the character of the manager’s ‘boyfriend’ while viewing the film. I admit ‘suspending disbelief’ in the existence of the ‘caller police officer’ character was almost impossible for me because his motivation defied any understanding.

If one realizes that there are indeed, as in the case of the actual victim in 2004, rural high school seniors, barely 18, desperate for even a fast food job to support a mother without a job, holding religious tinge cultural values of intense respect for adult authority, and actually lacking the brash defiant confidence of most young women, then one can understand why the victim character behaved as she did.

The actors did a fine job, especially the actress portraying the young victim, who had the most difficult task of being a character so unlike the personality that any successful young actress must have in order to actually win a leading role in a film. The writer’s task of defining the victim character was even more difficult because, I suspect, the thoughts of such victims are uniquely individual and interior, which often results in emotional shut down that visually difficult to convey in words, let alone by emotional display of the actor.

I am a fan of most horror films (Zombies, vampires, and supernatural evil), science fiction, and most gore films (even the first Feast film), even if Rest Stops, motels, Hostels, feral people, and trips overseas now rise concerns, and a fan of all versions of Spit on your Grave and Last House and, of course old school Freddy and Jason. I can even handle Jack Ketchum’s films with the exception of “THE GIRL NEXT DOOR”, which I could only view with the commentary track running to maintain emotional distance.

‘Compliance’ is unlike the films I am a fan of but it is worth seeing because ‘disturbing and haunting’ is an accurate claim.
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on September 12, 2017
Brilliant, harrowing film. Amazingly, just about every event in this film actually happened, which makes it even more astounding and gut-wrenching. Anchored by an incredibly brave performance by Dreama Walker and exceptional performances by Anne Dowd, Pat Healy, and Bill Camp, "Compliance" shows how easily people can be compelled to blindly obey what they perceive to be an authority figure. Difficult to watch, this film will stick with you long after it's over, very highly recommended.
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