Critics Consensus

Anchored by smart, sensitive direction and strong performances, Complicance is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller that's equal parts gripping and disturbing.



Total Count: 141


Audience Score

User Ratings: 13,873
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Movie Info

Becky and Sandra aren't the best of friends. Sandra is a middle-aged manager at a fast-food restaurant; Becky is a teenaged counter girl who really needs the job. One stressful day (too many customers and too little bacon), a police officer calls, accusing Becky of stealing money from a customer's purse, which she vehemently denies. Sandra, overwhelmed by her managerial responsibilities, complies with the officer's orders to detain Becky. This choice begins a nightmare that tragically blurs the lines between expedience and prudence, legality and reason. -- (C) Magnolia


Ann Dowd
as Sandra
Pat Healy
as Officer Daniels
James McCaffrey
as Detective Neals
Matt Servitto
as Supplier
John Merolla
as Customer
Desmin Borges
as Officer Morris
Matt Skibiak
as Robert Gilmour
Maren McKee
as Daughter
Ray McAnally
as Portland Detective
George Asatrian
as Convenience Store Clerk
Jeffrey Grover
as Television Journalist
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News & Interviews for Compliance

Critic Reviews for Compliance

All Critics (141) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (126) | Rotten (15)

  • Compliance's underlying humanism and political conscience lift it beyond being a macho endurance test.

    Feb 21, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Well as the film is performed, particularly by Dowd as the manager attempting to make order out of chaos, you can scarcely credit what happens.

    Mar 22, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Zobel's feature film brings out the creepy, banal horror of this culminating event, and the awful contemporary insights.

    Mar 21, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • A riveting, horrifying film, shot through with beautifully observed moments of unwelcome truth.

    Feb 26, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Compliance is one of the toughest sits of the movie year 2012. But it's an uncompromising and, in its way, honorable drama built upon a prank call that goes on and on, getting worse and worse for the people on the other end of the line.

    Jan 8, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The point of Compliance, which caused walkouts and shouting matches when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is how we are programmed to do things that go against our natural instincts as long as we believe we have the law on our side.

    Sep 23, 2012 | Rating: 1/4

Audience Reviews for Compliance

  • Aug 27, 2016
    Law Abiding Citizens!!
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Sep 01, 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.
    Edward B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2014
    Even with her imminent engagement to Van(Bill Camp), this looks like it will turn out to be a very long day for Sandra(Ann Dowd) in her job managing a fast food restaurant in Ohio. That starts with food spoiling from the night before leading to a critical shortage of pickles and bacon. And then Police Officer Daniels(Pat Healy) calls to report that Becky(Dreama Walker), one of her employees, has been accused of stealing from a customer. Taking her to the side, Sandra cannot find the missing money in her belongings, so Daniels tells her the search will have to be more thorough... The first thing they tell you(or should) in any creative writing class is that just because an event happened in real life does not automatically mean it will make for a good story. Case in point: "Compliance" which is inspired by true events(According to the endnote, something like this has happened at least 70 times.) and does not make for convincing drama in the least, even if it probably gets the day to day operations of a fast food restaurant right. In fact, with the movie observing events from a comfortable distance, it comes off as condescending, wondering how the characters could have possibly let this happen. And then it pushes things beyond simply an R-rated PSA into the dubious realm of exploitation.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 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, <i>Compliance</i> 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.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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