Release Date: September 26, 2012
Director: Craig Zobel
Stars: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy
Runtime: 90 min
On an ordinary and particularly busy Friday at a fictitious restaurant called Chickwich, the manager, Sandra (Ann Dowd), is upset since a shipment of pickles and bacon didn’t come in. Soon, a man claiming to be a police officer calls and complains that a pretty, young blonde employee has stolen from a customer. From the orders of the authoritative stranger, Sandra takes the accused, Becky (Dreama Walker), to a back room.
This causes stress for everyone involved. Each new person who comes on the phone gets tricked into participating in Becky’s sexual humiliation. No one gets left unharmed.
When ‘no one gets unharmed’ is said, don’t expect a violent assault with weaponry on these unsuspecting individuals, it is more simply an assault on their minds.
No one is harmed as much as Becky herself, the biggest victim of them all. The others are just taking part in listening to the odd stranger, while she is the one being humiliated… One thing that is frustrating about the feature is how the people simply listen to the stranger with hardly any questions asked. Sure, he claims to be an officer of the law and he might very well seem so to him, but we the audience know this dramatic irony to not be the case. However, we must all ask ourselves what we would do in a situation such as this. This film is just a true test of how far one would go to obey the law. I’d like to say that I wouldn’t obey a weird guy on the phone who claims he’s an officer who will be at the restaurant soon, I’m not sure if I could tell anyone convincingly that I wouldn’t listen to him… And that is a majority of peoples’ state of mind.
Whilst the concepts embedded in the feature are extremely fascinating, the film is sometimes slow and slightly frustrating. One of the only ridiculous and frustrating things about the feature really is how they freely listen to him. We know he is really not an officer of the law, but they don’t. These frustrating aspects of it make it so unique and fascinating, and also so realistic. They are also necessary to the feature, otherwise Compliance wouldn’t be the great taut crime thriller it actually is.
The characters are well-characterized as those who are willing to obey the law at any cost, and Becky as an innocent girl who is extremely victimized. Each performer portrays each character realistically and with ease. That’s a thing about low-budget features, the actors are always so genuine and talented. Dreama Walker says she will be a great leading performer, and Ann Dowd and the eerie Pat Healy (as a sadistic, authoritative prank-caller) do a magnificent job. No matter how slow this feature may be, it is nonetheless extremely compelling. It gets disturbing, thought-provoking and inarguably unsettling, but it is so well done and so hard to look away. It’s even more disturbing to know someone actually did this. The restaurant may be fictitious, but the story is not, and Zobel does a great job of writing the true story to life.
In a nutshell: Compliance is an unsettling film that is extremely memorable. While slow, it has fascinating and thought-provoking concepts and genuine performances make this one of the best disturbing features of 2012.