"Compliance" is a film that can be taken two ways. The first is by covering it with a heap of critical praise about being different, daring and featuring bold performances that linger. The second, which also happens to be my own, involves a story that starts off well but goes beyond being convoluted (based on real-life events or not!), characters that seem daft and dim and an overall feeling of time wasted – two sides of the critical "Compliance" coin.
It’s a busy day in Ohio at the fast food restaurant ChickWich and the rush is beginning. The phone rings and Manager on duty Sandra answers. It’s a police officer and he informs Sandra that one of the employees, a young blonde girl named Becky, has stolen money from a customer’s purse. Sandra takes her to the office and detains her while Officer Daniels is on the way. He does however suggest that Sandra should check Becky’s purse and belongings for the missing money. When none is found, he mentions that to save time Sandra may want to strip-search her there – and that’s just the beginning.
I must admit the film had me curious and my interest peaked – to a point. Because being based on real events does not give carte blanche to destroy all story common sense and the escalating acts put upon the unsuspecting fast food crew here go way beyond plausible. Meaning there was very specific point where it’s obvious to any viewer smart or dumb that something was rotten, but the characters kept going anyway – hard to relate is an understatement. I’ve also read some quotes that tout Ann Dowd’s work as the obedient Sandra as the second coming, but for me she not only came off unbelievable, but even a tad tedious. The only saving grace of this roller coaster ride that goes firmly off the tracks is the disturbing work by former Innkeepers net geek Pat Healy as the slimy phone terrorist Officer Daniels. Working his victims like a demented sick child with a new toy and with a tone that sends chills, Healy creates what he and his previous Innkeeper gal pal were desperately searching for – something truly creepy.
I’m not saying that these events didn't happen, but here in film form they come off fake. Perhaps that was the goal of director Craig Zobel to get audiences talking, but as a cinematic movie experience it doesn't exactly make for an engaging outing. Watching folks be willfully obtuse may be the stuff of genius or just a sign of stupidity – in its cold call chaos "Compliance" makes a competent case for both.
"COMPLIANCE" OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS AUGUST 24 FROM MAGNOLIA PICTURES RELEASING.