COMPLIANCE (director/writer: Craig Zobel; cinematographer: Adam Stone; editor: Jane Rizzo; music: Heather McIntosh; cast: Ann Dowd (Sandra), Dreama Walker (Becky), Pat Healy (Officer Daniels), Ashlie Atkinson (Marti), Philip Ettinger (Kevin), Bill Camp (Van), Nikiya Mathis (Connie), James McCaffrey (Detective Neals); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Craig Zobel/Tyler Davidson/Sophia Lin/Lisa Muskat; Magnolia Pictures; 2012)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The irritatingone-note indiefilm is severely limited in its scope, as it plays more like an idea project than a full-scale drama. It points out how stupid humans can be and how easily they comply with the law because they are conditioned to obey authority figures without question (in other words think Hitler and Germany!). The film was inspired by an actual 2004 event that took place at a McDonald’s in Mount Washington, Ky., but what’s more startling is that there were 70 similar incidents throughout the country. Yet I found it almost impossible to believe that such a creepy prank call could be believed even at first blush, unless you were a moron (which is how the stereotyped team of fast-food workers in this fictionalized Ohio setting are depicted).
Compliance upset enough of the audience to have massive walk-outs at this year’s Sundance Festival. It’s written and directed by Craig Zobel (“Great World of Sound”).
The middle-aged fast food manager at ChickWich, Sandra (Ann Dowd), is stressed-out because a worker left the freezer door open overnight and she had to order from the supplier another shipment that left her short on bacon and pickles for the hectic rush-hour crowd. Things get worse when the befuddled Sandra learns by phone from an officious sounding police officer, Daniels (Pat Healy), that flighty teenage counter-girl Becky (Dreama Walker) is accused of robbing a customer’s money and he wants a strip search. Things escalate as the phone cop, really a family man insurance salesman, makes more demands, brings more workers into his scheme, and the audience is supposed to believe what they are seeing that both the accused and the supervisor are not suspicious that something is not kosher about this call. Things get so bizarre that it leads to the manager’s working-class boyfriend (Bill Camp), not employed by the company, who when ordered by the obvious phony police officer to spread Becky’s legs and reach into her vagina to see if she’s hidden the money there, would actually do it. It further leads to such tragic results for Becky (a rape victim) and the dutiful to a fault fast-food manager (fired in the aftermath), who both comply with such strange abusive requests from someone showing no proof he was an officer. The humiliation of the accused gets carried on until it goes beyond the point of logic.
The film left me feeling, in some way, as abused as the innocent counter-girl. Since everyone acted so whack it was hard to feel anything for such dopes, as the film left me with a cold sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that its truth was twisted into the sphere of the farfetched for sensationalized entertainment purposes.
REVIEWED ON 11/16/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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