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Compliance Reviews

Page 1 of 55
Edward B

Super Reviewer

September 1, 2014
You will be hard pressed to find a more disturbing thriller this year. Compliance is a harrowing experience, made all the more stressful when you see the terrible way these characters behave thinking the law is on their side.
The film is ultimately a testament not just to our inability to question authority but our unwillingness to. We the audience sit helplessly as we watch a young woman humiliated by people who are supposed to be her friends, all in the name of compliance to what they think is a police officer.
This film explores the dark side of humanity in a way that few films have. It does it with minimal locations and a phone. When the credits rolled I couldn't believe this was based on a true story. Then I looked up the actual case this film was based on. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the events happened exactly as they were told in the film, and how unsettling it is to know that it happened 70 different times and that the perpetrator was acquitted.
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

September 27, 2012
Good film, but scary to think it is based on real events.
Trying to put myself in the place of the manager who is phoned by the police and convinced that her employee stole from a customers purse, I am trying to think at what point I personally would have said that's enough. It certainly wouldn't have got to the strip search, I can safely say that much. You would also have to be questioning if the customer is actually telling the truth in the first place, and for that matter, who is this customer.
Staggeringly naive, but I can understand maybe someone being fooled - but at what point would you say no, I will not he doing that, come down yourself?!
I can't even get my head around leaving a half naked young girl with male employees and then your boyfriend while you go and serve customers.
Certainly an interesting and disturbing film and maybe a cautionary tale for the more gullible of us.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

January 10, 2014
Unbelievable but true. The emphasis seems to be on how someone can be so manipulative and get away with it so many times but for me it was more 'How can anyone be so stupid?'. It's not an enjoyable experience, it tells us a unique true story but it isn't a nice one. It's sad that people do this to one another but it is sadder still that people are stupid enough to go along with it. As a bit of sensationalist fear-mongering its sickening and uncomfortably voyeuristic but as a comment on society it yet again picks on the little guy rather than point the finger at the people in power. It's a film with a no win ending.

Super Reviewer

November 27, 2013
A fast food manager receives a call from the police claiming that one her employees is guilty of theft and that the manager should subject her to more and more brutal searches.
With stellar, understated performances, Compliance is difficult to watch unless one can maintain one's disbelief. I know I'm not supposed to laugh at this film, but I did because the characters' gullibility defies believability. The opening credits triumph that this was based on actual events, and if I hadn't looked up the real case beforehand, I would not have believed it were possible. Heavy-handed in its anti-authority message, the film does well when it shows us what happened, but by the end of it, I still can't understand why it happened.
Overall, we should all watch this film and be able to laugh at it, but alas, the world remains unhumorous.

Super Reviewer

September 9, 2013
Great psychological prospective and interesting to anyone fascinated with behaviour and the compliance of people when they believe an authority figure is telling them to do something!
Can't believe this is based on real events and happened in over 70 states around America! But very interesting!

Super Reviewer

August 20, 2013
The fact that this is a true story blows me away. Incredible how much power you can have when you have authority and confidence (think if the Catch me if you Can guy was evil).

Super Reviewer

June 12, 2013
Sandra: I'll do... everything that you need.

Compliance is a pretty good little indie drama that examines the sheep like nature of what human beings have become, especially when they believe they are dealing with a higher authority than themselves. The movie feels a bit longwinded at times, which isn't a good thing when a movie clocks in at a dainty hour and twenty-five minutes, but nonetheless, it worked. The movie was well-made from a technical outlook. It was well shot, well acted, and had an atmosphere setting tone from the very start.

Sandra is a manager of a fast food restaurant. Today is a hectic day, not only did she lose over a thousand dollars worth of food last night when someone didn't shut the freezer all the way, but it's her busiest day of the week and they're short on food and manpower. The day gets more stressful when she receives a call from a man claiming to be a police officer. He says that he has a woman with him who claims that one of the employees, Becky, stole money. He then tells Sandra and others what he needs them to do as he can't presently get there. Some of which is highly disturbing.

Supposedly, Compliance is based on a true story and at the end of the film even states that around 70 cases like this have occurred in more than 30 states. This says a lot about two different types of people. Firstly, the disgusting nature of the caller who obviously loves having power over people and loves seeing what he can make them do. Then there's the people who actually go along with it, in this case, Sandra.á

Compliance isn't a must watch, but I can't deny that it isn't an interesting and altogether well made film. It's not a movie that is fun to watch, yet it isn't strenuous to get through either. It's one that really needs to be seen to be understood and if you come across it, give it a look, because it is an extremely interesting movie.
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

February 8, 2013
This film does so much with real life events and yet also says something new about psychological horror, thrillers, and independent films. This is inspired by the true events surrounding a crank caller, which led to many sexual assaults and some confused restaurant employees and their managers. This film takes place in one particular franchise where the Friday rush is proving to be difficult for an overwhelmed manager trying to deal with so many things at once. Suddenly a phone call comes in from a police officer, who tells the manager that one of her employees has been suspected of stealing a customer's money out of her purse, and the manager needs to keep the employee in the back room until they can arrive from her house where they have found drugs and other paraphernalia. The office says all this with an authority and curtness that leads the manager to believe his every word, and he is so empathetic and persuasive as well that she takes it all in stride. The restaurant continues to hum, but the sick perversion of the caller continually leads to the debasement of the worker who hasn't done anything wrong. The film is a study into the psychological process that a person can use with authority of the law to screw with people without them seriously considering the logic behind these commands. Everyone seems to blindly obey this faceless man although there is no reason to, especially legally. Of course several employees do question the validity of the line of questioning, but when it comes down to it, the questioning is often met with an argument from the officer and they are reprimanded by the manager. It comes to pass that this girl, who is holed up in the back of the restaurant, not given any rights, stripped, and made to comply with the demands of a voice without identification, is hurt. This film does well at not exploiting the situation or the true victim of these events, and opens up a dialogue about what you would do in the same situation. The way it wraps itself up and distinguishes it as something that really happens was also very well done, and this film does so much for how truly small it is, which is just so impressive.

Super Reviewer

March 11, 2013
Compliance is essentially a horror film without a body count. It is not only one hell of a tough sit, but one that has terrible implications for humanity.

Phillip Zimbardo in his book "The Lucifer Effect" shows how when average people are in the right circumstances, they are capable of incredible evils. If Zimbardo's theory were on trial, Compliance would be exhibit A.

Starting as an average day, local fast food employee Becky soon finds herself the victim of a prank call. One that should have easily been dimissed, but due to societal, occupational, & a variety of other pressures, is allowed to flourish into a full-blown case of sexual assault.

Through a constant establishment of authority & an acceptance of all responsiblity, this miscreant gains access and is allowed control of a group of people who are accomplishing his nefarious deeds; all whilst believing that what they are doing is simply a part of some banal protocol.

It is frustrating, maddening, and were it not a true story, damn near unbelievable. Yet, it speaks to humanity's power to overlook degradation as long as somebody else is calling the shots. A message as important as it is uncomfortable.
Sunny D

Super Reviewer

February 25, 2013
"Compliance" left me with a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, I felt like it was incredibly well-directed and captivating. On the other hand, I found it frustrating and just wanted one person to realize how ridiculous "Officer Daniel"'s requests were. I suppose this is exactly the type of viewing experience Zobel was trying to create, and he succeeded in making a very solid film. Grade: B-
Michael S

Super Reviewer

February 1, 2013
Because a film about the inner workings of a fast food restaurant isn't nearly disturbing enough, we get "Compliance," a bold, equally maddening piece of work that will provoke thought, test patience, and turn stomachs.

"Compliance" traces a busy Friday evening at an average, all-American fast food joint. Sandra (Ann Dowd, in an award-worthy turn) is the manager; commencing her workday with utter seriousness. She nags her employees, making few friends in the process and finds embellishing her sexual exploits an acceptable way of getting their approval. She has her favorites though, but early on we sense Becky (Dreama Walker) isn't one of them.

She seems like your regular teen; working a dead end job she hates but fears losing. When a mysterious caller, claiming to be a policeman, informs Sandra that Becky has committed a theft, the girl is restrained at her own will in a back room monitored by management and a variety of clueless staff. The caller demands that Becky be stripped searched, but that's only the beginning. The caller progressively pushes the boundaries while a compliant Sandra never questions his authority. With work pilling up, Sandra is persuaded to get her fiancee involved.

Few films will test your endurance the way "Compliance" does. This is a harrowing work of realist depravity. How much psychological abuse can we take? In a film of characters making the poorest decisions imaginable, which will be the one to make us finally cry "uncle?" It's a testament to the film's power that we cannot look away. We are helpless observers...and we are involved in the proceedings whether we like it or not. Knowing the film is based on true events (and doesn't stray far from fact) is simple staggering.

Most fascinating is how the filmmakers shift our perception on the film's characters; especially that of Becky. A lesser film would have her portrayed as a helpless victim, rendering the film exploitative. "Compliance" is smarter than that. Writer/ director Craig Zobel makes Becky a victim of herself. Why can't she grasp the lunacy of her situation?Can she not sense that something's clearly off? She can bring the situation to a halt at any time, but through her naivety chooses not to. She is simultaneously the oppressed and the oppressor. Alternately, Sandra sporadically comes off as sympathetic. We sense she's just trying to do the right thing but her common sense unfortunately rests on a shaky foundation. She's obviously preoccupied; with Friday being the busiest workday and all!

Early on, the identity of the mystery caller is revealed. Well played. "Compliance" doesn't wan't to be a mystery film and from the get go establishes itself as something that can't simply be categorized under cinema's various tropes. It's Zobel's determination to have the film play by nobody's rules but his own that makes it so strong. There is a scene in the final act involving Sandra's husband that brought me to almost punch a hole in my TV screen. It's so over the top and far removed from anything that a person would subject themselves to that even after I found out it actually happened, I was shocked it made it's way into the film. The filmmakers just lay it all on the line.Whether it makes their film seem less credible or whether or not an audience can accept it is of little concern; and that's brave.

"Compliance" is a wakeup call to a society that would allow such events to occur in the first place. It's not a movie to simply enjoy, rather a cerebral one to discuss and reflect on. It's not an easy watch, but In it's own way it's quite the film, and despite it's content deserves to be seen by all ages.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

February 3, 2013
A shocking and important movie that should be required viewing for everyone. Based on true events about a crank caller being able to force people to do the most horrendous things, Compliance is a real look at how dangerous, gullible, and compliant human beings can be. If you thought the Nazis defence of "We were only following orders" is a weak one, then I suggest you watch this and shiver at the fact that it is almost 100% completely true. The fact this happened more than once is very telling of society. Zobel delves heroically into the subject matter, and could easily have made it more "believable", but instead shows us things unfold at a questionable rate. The claustrophobic setting and shots builds the tension, and when juxtaposing the events i the backroom with the hectic workings of a fast food restaurant we see how such evil really can lurk so close by. The performances are immense and the music is well suited. I think it's very interesting how angry this film has made some people, and I would guess the reason is they are uncomfortable thinking that they could be just as easily manipulated.

Super Reviewer

December 24, 2012
A man calls a fast food restaurant claiming to be a police officer and talks the manager into conducting a strip search of an 18-year old female employee; as the harried manager returns to cover the girl's shift, the caller cons others into humiliating the innocent girl with increasingly deviant requests. Intensely provocative and tense, it will have you screaming at the screen at the characters' stupidity. You wouldn't believe it was possible people would meekly submit to the bizarre demands of an apparent authority figure so easily, except that it's based on a true story of a prank caller who called almost 100 fast food franchises across the country and tricked seven of them into falling for the strip search ruse.
Kevin C

Super Reviewer

January 5, 2013
Harrowing, frustrating, and challenging, however, choosing to have our minimum wage working victim remain stoic and irritated instead of the more realistic fearful and loathing raises more questions about the screenplay than of moral and social qualms (even though I appreciate that we didn't get 90 minutes of a constantly crying teenage cashier).

Super Reviewer

July 26, 2012
Now this is a very questionable film, going from extremely disturbing scenes, to downright impossible situations. This film may be based on actual events, but I know for certain that it wouldn't have happened the way it did in this film, because it is just unheard of. The suspense builds for the first 30 minutes, but after you know what is exactly going on, there is really nothing to look forward to, except for the disturbing nudity scenes and whether or not she will comply. Everything in this film just sort of happens, and there is really no element of surprise, which is what I was hoping for. "Compliance" is well directed and well acted, with a screenplay that works very well for what it is, but that is all!
Everett J

Super Reviewer

December 14, 2012
A few years ago I was watching 20/20 when they ran a story about a prank phone call at a McDonalds. The manager took a call from someone who said they were a cop, and accusing a teenage girl of stealing money. From there the caller has the manager strip search the girl, and it gets crazier from there. "Compliance" is a movie based on that, and pretty much a complete reenactment. This is 100% true, and that is just insane. The entire movie you will be saying "WTF?! Are you serious? Are you stupid?! No way this is real!" The fact that it really the happened is just baffling and makes the movie that much more entertaining. The acting is pretty bad(except Ann Dowd as the manager, she does good), but the directing is great. The execution of the movie is great, considering this could have easily been a lifetime made for TV movie. Instead it's a movie filled with tension and suspense. This is the kind of Independent movie that shows that a big budget isn't needed to make a good movie. Is this a must watch? No, but it entertaining, and worth a watch.

Super Reviewer

November 20, 2012
The day at a fast food eatery began like any other. Sandra (Ann Dowd), the manager of the branch, has to shepherd her small group of employees through a hectic Friday evening. Then she gets a phone call from an "Officer Daniels" (Pat Healy). He tells her one of her workers, Becky (Dreama Walker), has stolen money from a customer. Sandra takes Becky into a storeroom and confronts her. Becky is aghast and professes her innocence. This is where things start to get out of control in writer/director Craig Zobel's potent indie pressure-cooker. "Officer Daniels" insists that Becky be searched, then strip searched, and then worse, and Sandra and the employees begrudgingly go along. After all, it's an officer of the law telling them what to do. Except that "Officer Daniels" is no police officer. This whole incident is an awful prank, and the people involved will never be the same.

This really is an indie horror movie, flipping the oft-repeated cry, "Don't go in there," with, "Why are you still doing this?" You may have to watch portions of this movie between your fingers. I was squirming and crying out at numerous points. The tension and dread just continue to mount, and you watch the characters slowly degrade, as they're asked to do more insidious acts of humiliation in the name of compliance, and to watch them carry on the path of shame. It's a step-by-step process of human degradation, so that the more disturbing moments of sexual obedience don't feel entirely implausible given the journey through hell the characters have endured. It is impossible to watch this movie silent and detached. This is a provocative film that will garner many reactions but it's also something of an endurance test. How long can you watch? How far can you watch these characters descend? The movie hooks you early and then you almost feel complicit, but you're completely taken over by morbid curiosity.

The movie is a powerful modern-day example of the Milgram experiment, the famous psychological exercise where a figure in authority, who assumes all responsibility, gradually gets average people to commit increasingly harmful acts to others. As long as people believe they are following orders, they can be convinced to do almost anything by someone in control. It's easy to sit back and judge these characters, scoffing at how na´ve they seem to be. It's always easy for us to say what we would do in hypothetical situations, that is, until they happen. Compliance is an intriguing analysis of the shifting facets if power, authority, and manipulation. "Officer Daniels" enlists a host of tricks and verbal intimidation to persuade his victims to do things outside their better judgment (the caller's true profession is a brilliant backstory). After a while, Sandra looks to be developing some slight Stockholm syndrome as she empathizes more with the plight of the phony officer on the phone than her employee. He provides just enough sympathy and validation she's looking for to win her over. He also plays people against one another; he implores Becky to spare Sandra any extended grief, which often cows her into consenting. "Officer Daniels" isn't the only one manipulating others; Sandra pressures employees to become involved in the situation, using her position of power to squeeze others into getting what she wants. There are numerous victims and culprits here and Zobel could have easily given over to the exploitation elements of his story and made a very tawdry, voyeuristic exercise in sexual dominance. We watch as Becky bares all of herself and then goes even further, as "Officer Daniels" instructs male attendants to physically inspect her body cavities. It is a credit to Zobel's sensitive direction that Compliance does not come across like a glorified S&M masturbation fantasy. He treats the incident very seriously, providing clear distaste without going overboard into preachy condemnation or superiority. It's amazing that Zobel's script finds so much empathy for his participants. You may be surprised at how relatable and "normal" these people seem. You may even recognize some of them. They're all trying to do the right thing at heart, but that distinction gets extremely blurry as the night carries on. The point of Zobel's script is that these people could be us. The added empathy makes the downward spiral all the more stomach-churning, as we want these characters to take a stand, to wise up and question the voice of authority.

Dowd (Marley & Me) is downright heartbreaking and deeply frustrating in the movie. We get a clear sense of the pressure she's under in her position, but she's really the focal point of the movie. Walker (TV's Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23) is the martyr of the piece, and her slow resignation to the humiliation is deeply affecting, but this is Dowd's movie. The longtime character actress takes the character of the dowdy Sandra, striving for respect, and transforms her into a figure worthy of Greek tragedy. She can be vindictive and, well, bossy, but she's also a figure struggling for respect and validation and what she feels is morally just. We watch as her confidence starts getting chipped away, the flickers of doubt that she must tamp down because now she's gone too far to reverse course. I don't imagine that a movie as small as Compliance will be remembered around Oscar time, but I'll certainly recall Dowd's sad and transfixing performance.

I'd like to share a spooky bit of personal connection to the film. No I've never experienced anything this heinous before, but there was an offhand music cue that caught my interest. When we cut to the dining area early on, there's an Admiral Twin song playing. Who is Admiral Twin? Why they're a brilliant pop-rock band from Tulsa, Oklahoma that I've been singing the praises of since 2000. I've won over friends with my discipleship, but the band is still relatively unknown, playing few performances outside of their native Tulsa. Given the phonetic approximations of my name with the film's writer/director, and the inclusion of an obscure indie band that few know (but should), it seems likely that Zobel may indeed be some far off relative of mine or, more likely, myself. I must have crafted an entire film without ever knowing about it. This seems like the most probable scenario.

I don't want it sound like Compliance is some grueling exercise in group sadism. In lesser hands, it might have devolved to that. It's a fascinating and provocative game that challenges and incenses an audience. The movie is a sickening but compulsively watchable dramatic experiment that will leave you talking for hours once it concludes. It's an uncomfortable sit, yes, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. The events in the film seem unbelievable and yet it's based on a true story. This stuff happened, people. Not only that, it happened multiple occasions in multiple vicinities. What does that say about human nature? Will we only be as good as society lets us be? If we are absolved of responsibility, how far removed from our own sense of ethics will we go? Are we all susceptible to this moral failing under the right circumstances? I think that's the truly terrifying and lasting lesson of Compliance. These people could be us, both victim and unwitting antagonist. Destined to stir debate and become a college ethics course favorite, Compliance is a gripping movie that will make you cringe but also give way to some scary introspection. How far would you go?

Nate's Grade: A-

Super Reviewer

October 8, 2012
A slow climb to a fulfilling end. Every minute is better than the last. Has what most modern thrillers are missing.
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