Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 61 Ratings

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  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: 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. (Magnolia Pictures) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 32
  2. Negative: 4 out of 32
  1. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Aug 17, 2012
    The actors in Compliance perform with thorough and chilling sincerity.
  2. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Aug 20, 2012
    Compliance is a small movie, but it provides insight into large and frightening events, like the voluntary participation of civilians in the terrible crimes of the last century.
  3. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Aug 16, 2012
    The truth can indeed be stranger than fiction and, in this case, were the story to have originated in the imagination of the screenwriter, it could rightfully be criticized as artificial and contrived. But, disturbing and unlikely as it may be, this stuff actually happened, and pretty much as Craig Zobel relates it.
  4. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Sep 6, 2012
    It's a small gem of a movie, disturbingly realistic and profoundly terrifying on a near-primal level.
  5. Reviewed by: Amy Biancolli
    Aug 23, 2012
    Some films are harder to watch than others - not because they're bad, which makes for a different sort of painful viewing, but because they touch on areas of such profound moral discomfort that the mere act of watching makes us feel complicit. We feel like gutless witnesses to a crime. And that's what makes Compliance such a hard thing to stomach.
  6. Reviewed by: Steve Erickson
    Aug 14, 2012
    Compliance lets neither men nor women off the hook.
  7. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Aug 23, 2012
    This nasty little bottom-feeder of a film is too condescending to be trusted, too manipulative to be believed, too turgid to be enjoyed, too shameless to be endured and, before and after everything else, too inept to make its misanthropic case.

See all 32 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 20
  2. Negative: 6 out of 20
  1. Nov 9, 2013
    Violent in the worst way, dirty, shameful, heavy, even than never, do not expose anything. And what makes 'Compliance' a masterpiece is that all is grasped, digested and used in some way. Expand
  2. Oct 21, 2012
    I think alot of people are having difficulty realizing that this movie is based on actual events. Alot of people say that the characters are too stupid and the story is too ridiculous, and it might be but the movies accurately represent the events that it is based on (no matter how far fetched they might be). So you just need to accept that and then you will realize that this is a really well made movie. The whole movie has a really organic feel to it, the dialogue is genuine dialogue that you would hear in real life. The acting is really subtle, there is no over acting or stupid characters. I have to mention Ann Dowd who give a great performance and Dreama Walker for actually taking on this role. And the direction is amazing, there is a tense feeling throughout the movie and the long shots give a dream like feeling to the movie. The only thing I didn't like was that the ending which was kind of rushed, if not for that it would have been a perfect movie (for what it is). 9.6/10. Expand
  3. Jun 18, 2013
    I had heard of the event that this film is based on a number of times when it happened but only put it off as just another news story. Just something that happened in the world that the newsroom needed to fill up their air time. I didn’t give it much thought until I saw this movie and realized just how horrific and diabolical this event really was.

    The film begins in the setting of a fast food joint where our victims work. It just happened to be the day where business is buzzing, as it is on every Friday, and the establishment is low on bacon. Now, with a movie like this where you already know the outcome, these opening scenes are eerie. They show the characters in their most pleasant state, unknowingly waiting for their doom as it descends ever so slowly upon them. You are left waiting for the first movie to be made and it’s nerve-racking. You see the clerks working as the hours go by when the manager, Sandra, picks up the phone and to her surprise, it’s Officer Daniels on the other line asking about Becky, the cashier at the establishment. You probably already know this, but Officer Daniels is actually a prank caller posing as a police officer for his own sick pleasure. It seems that Becky has stolen some money from a woman while on the job. Becky denies this accusation, but the police say otherwise and make Sandra and several others interrogate Becky through sexual and occasionally violent means. The rest of the movie is just event after event of this “police officer” playing these people like puppets and each situation is more gruesome than the one before.

    I will come out and say it now; Compliance is not an easy ride. It is not an easy subject to handle and although it’s not graphic, it is gruesome. This person for reasons unknown puts people in a situation where they are literally questioning what’s real and what’s not, then out of utter confusion they turn to the one person who is restoring order and that’s the person they suspect is a police officer, but he’s the one forming the confusion in the first place. He is playing these people like puppets, mocking them as they go through with whatever he tells them to do. It’s disgusting and just plain strange, but this is where this movie gets its true strength. It takes this short event and stretches it to the point where you are seeing these situations through the victim’s eyes and it’s unnerving in the way films like The Shining and The Silence of the Lambs are.

    Compliance is a claustrophobic experience that has a unique and powerful aspect to be both uncomfortable and compelling all at the same time. It is uncomfortable to watch, and that’s just one great thing about this movie. It digs to the base of human nature during a situation like this. The characters begin to not only question the people around them, but also question their own beliefs just because of a prank call got too out of hand. How would you react during a situation like this? Everyone has their own way of coping during something like this and this film captures the very base of that complex and enthralling mechanism and it is terrifying.
  4. Aug 31, 2012
    Compliance is a small movie that's saying a lot more than some of the biggest, high budget films being released. It is psychologically driven and gives much insight into how and why an ordinary individual can be blindly driven to do unspeakable things, by those in the authority (or at least those they believe is an authority figure). It is filled with excellent, naturalistic performances (particularly from lead actress Ann Dowd), which were essential in keeping the viewers engaged in such minimalism. The movie is tense and the director slowly, yet appropriately eases us into the tension, one step at a time. Compliance is a very good piece of independent cinema that I highly recommend, and hope doesn't go unnoticed. Expand
  5. Feb 24, 2013
    The believability of the stupidity of these characters makes the whole script loose credibility. Other than that there were some entertaining characters and plot development. Expand
  6. Dec 13, 2012
    I am beyond baffled as to why this film is getting any sort of praise. The fact that it is based on actual events is it's only saving grace given the fact that almost everything in this is movie dreadful. A nude teen doing jumping jacks in the back of a fast food chain doesn't make for a intriguing plot, it actually discredits any validity the film was barely hanging onto. Disappointing and weak to say the least.. Collapse
  7. Feb 25, 2013
    Compliance is just about one of the most abhorrent films I've ever seen.

    In 2007, there were 70 exceptional cases were reported across to
    the American Police department. While they all had their own, unsettling idiosyncrasies, they were all loosely connected by subterfuge and prank calls. This is no Steve Penk or The Jerky Boys, but real vile cases of human maltreatment.

    It's an extraordinary topic that is crying out to be debunked in an explorative, Errol Morris style documentary. Compliance isn't that film.

    Writer/director Craig Zobel decides to focus this seeming pandemic on one exceptional example, based on a mélange of different real cases to make one mega-horrific fictional one. It's just another regular day at an Ohio fast food chain, until a meticulous prank caller convinces the restaurant manager (Ann Dowd) that one of her employees Becky, Gossip Girl's Dreama Walker, is being accused of stealing from a customer. What proceeds is a manipulating interrogation, where everyone idly agrees to whatever increasingly insane task the caller will have them do. Why? Without proving any of his credentials, the prank caller deceives everyone involved into believing that he is a police officer, and thus establishing his unobjectionable authority. By Compliance's nasty end, Becky is naked, humiliated, and sexually violated, and the audience are accomplices; watching on through guarded eyes and clenched fists.

    Even though the story comes from a bastardised real place, Zobel really pushes the boundaries of plausibility. Not in a "stranger than fiction" way, but rather because the characterisation, narrative, and Zobel's misguided compulsion to tell it, is shallow. The ninety minute running time lingers for what feels like days and, whilst the repetitious sequences are relatively tame and implicit, it all feels incredibly ugly and exploitative; as if Zobel is forcing the audience to watch a security camera.

    At it's most tenuous, one could wring-out a slapdash argument that the film is forcing the audience to look at this injustice like a reflexive meta-narrative, like Haneke's Funny Games. Unlike the unflinchingly austere Austrian, Zobel lacks directorial flare and balls to actually critique or comment on the true events and populace servility to the law.

    Even when the film was snapped up at the Sundance Film Festival last year, it was met with notoriety, with walkouts and boos. Later, in a public Q&A, Zobel plainly admitted that the film is misogynistic. But for what reason? Zobel is trying to be forthright and polemical with Compliance, but simply projecting these images isn't enough to warrant a political license. An artless, meaningless, pseudo-video nasty that doesn't earn the discomfort it will leave you with.

    My full review, and other things, right here:

See all 20 User Reviews