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

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 62 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: 13 out of 21
  2. Negative: 6 out of 21
  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. Sep 1, 2014
    A fresh and gripping thriller that is intriguing from the very beginning. Performances from Ann Dowd and Dreama Walker allow this small film to soar high. Expand
  4. Aug 25, 2012
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Compliance is one of those movies that gets many thinking, "What the hell are these people doing? I'd never let this happen." (I was in that camp, knowing my fair share of Crim Pro.) Director Craig Zobel and star Pat Healey ("Officer Daniels") addressed our audience, stressing that it's not the people who are worried that they might get caught up in this sort of situation that worry them - it's those people who see it as a black and white no-brainer that these employees are idiots who are likely the same people that would likely fall prey to this situation, or the Milgram experiments. I kept thinking about Clooney's line from Michael Clayton - "Police don't call - they show up." As for the film, it's dramatic and interesting, but too much of the film is laser focused on the single night rather than on the post-call ramifications. I found it super interesting that the real-life Officer Daniels was acquitted of all charges - not in the film. Expand
  5. Mar 8, 2013
    Compliance is the chilling true story of a young fast food worker who is accused of stealing from one of the restaurants patrons. A phone call is made to the restaurants manager, who is then requested to assist in the investigation. The entire story takes place within the confines of the restaurants back room. What transpires over the course of a couple of hours will have you running to the internet to see how much of this true story was fabricated for dramatic license. The answer appears to be none of it. Which is not only bewildering but also terrifying.

    For a film that is made by a relatively unknown writer and director and stars relatively unknown character actors Compliance is very well done. Zobel does a good job of giving us a sense of the environment that the characters reside in through subtle static shots. We are also given short glimpses into the characters lives which is allows for us to connect with them enough to be invested in the outcome of the story. This becomes very important as the story builds, and most of the characters become unsympathetic. Zobel also does a nice job of building the tension and drama in the movie. If you read about these events separate of the film you will have a hard time believing that any human could ever be so ignorant as these characters. However the events are a slow burn and Zobel does a great job of illustrating this. You will still be left shaking your head, but the events do seem more plausible as presented here.

    While Compliance is not a life altering movie it is very well done and worth your time. Compliance is a story that evokes sympathy, anger, and bewilderment all at once. That is a story worth telling.
  6. Feb 5, 2013
    It is what a contemporary drama film should be: carefully paced, slowly revealing, supported by strong performances and effective score. However, it lacks deeper and much more involved analysis of the problem especially since the story is based on actual events. The film barely elaborates on the issue presented. This means that, besides some questions arising at the very end, the film and most of the time relies on depiction and the potent shock value such visual suggestions contain. Expand
  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 21 User Reviews