Review: Compliance

A disturbing film representation of true stories, The River reviews a “hard to swallow” Craig Zobel film.

Teri Dyer

Some films are hard to watch because they’re simply awful, but Compliance offers a completely different type of painful viewing.

Based on the true story of a chain of prank calls in America with disturbing consequences, Compliance touches on areas of moral discomfort that some viewers may find hard to swallow.

70 disturbing tales

Sandra (Ann Dowd), the slightly idiotic and insecure manager of an Ohio “Chickwich” fast-food restaurant, receives a prank call from a man (Pat Healy) falsely claiming to be a police detective. He accuses a young and naive cashier, Becky (Dreama Walker), of stealing money from a customer and through a mixture of flattery and intimidation enlists Sandra’s help in taking Becky into custody at the back of the restaurant and strip-searching her.

The plot at times is unbelievable and unrealistic, after all you have to question what kind of idiot abandons their morality to follow directions from a complete stranger over the phone. But that’s when you have to remember that the story is based on real events. And what’s even more shocking is that the film focuses on just one disturbing tale when in reality there were 70.

“Unsavoury atmosphere”

That said, the stars do an amazing job at convincing you that it’s real. Walker, best known for her star role in Don’t Trust The B*** in Apartment 23, is brilliant as the innocent victim. 

Most of the film is set in the claustrophobic confines of a back room in a fast food restaurant with few shots ever leaving the premises. But back inside the restaurant snapshots of greasy grills and frazzled fries pump up the unsavoury atmosphere and add to the pressure-cooker that director, Craig Zobel, successfully creates.

Guarantees a reaction

In true thriller style the most disturbing scenes are shot with discreet camera angles and let the viewers’ minds fill the blanks. Something that some people may find difficult. But you have to admire Zobel for tackling such a difficult and distressing tale. In fact it would be an insult to the true events if it was anything less than disturbing.

The film is not entertaining or enjoyable in the traditional sense. But you have to respect the quality thriller that it is. Whether you are outraged, disgusted or shocked it guarantees a reaction and it will haunt you long after you leave the cinema. And for that reason alone Compliance deserves to be seen.

Compliance is out March 22.

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