Today: February 21, 2024


The kind of controversy-courting flick that trumpets its torn-from-the-headlines “Based on a true story” credentials

The kind of controversy-courting flick that trumpets
its torn-from-the-headlines “Based on a true story” credentials
, inspiring walk-outs at film festivals
while normally being met with a disinterested “Meh…” by audiences, Compliance is the latest film to wheel
out those creaky old classics the Milgram
and the Stanford Prison
to illustrate the banality of evil and the lengths we’ll go to in
order to obey an authority figure who gives us permission to act against our
own personal conscience. And it’s
definitely not a chance to have a guilty wee perv over the perky blonde from Don’t Trust The B**** In Apartment 23
getting nekkid and being sexually humiliated and abused. No siree Bob, nothing could be further
from our minds!

Based on not one
but over 70 true stories across the continental United States, which kinda
makes you wonder just how gullible (or, more disturbingly, how eager) our
colonial cousins are, Compliance
sees harried, highly-strung fast-food restaurant manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) receive a phone call from an
‘Officer’ Daniels (Pat Healy) who
claims that one of Sandra’s employees, the pretty, young checkout girl Becky
(the aforementioned perky blonde Dreama
from Don’t Trust The B**** In
Apartment 23
) is guilty of theft and that Sandra should detain and strip
search the girl until he can get there to arrest her.

Held prisoner in
the restaurant storage room Sandra, the restaurant’s other employees and
Sandra’s squiffy boyfriend act as proxies for the prank caller as the
frightened, naïve, compliant Becky is subjected to an escalating series of
dehumanising humiliations on his orders, eventually culminating in a sexual

Starkly shot and
boasting good performances from all the principals, writer/director Zobel
stretches a pretty thin scenario until our suspension of disbelief snaps. It’s not that the implications of what
he’s showing us aren’t chilling and squirm-inducingly uncomfortable it’s just
that the film has little to say beyond “YOU’RE
No, we wouldn’t.
It takes a special kind of gullibility. Possibly an American gullibility. But even then, most people would find it a mite suspicious,
certainly unorthodox, if a policeman told them to search a suspected thief by
putting their wee-wee in her mouth.
Just saying.

Cynically, Compliance exploits its audience while indulging
our scopophilia; as much as we sympathise with Becky and are repulsed by her
ordeal, we want to see what she goes through. We’re culpable in her abuse because while the film doesn’t
show us anything particularly horrifying or shocking, (make no mistake, you’re
not watching Salò here) we want to be
horrified, we want to be shocked.
And, if we’re honest, we want to see just how perky the perky blonde
from Don’t Trust The B**** In Apartment 23 is. Compliance
is a piece of cool manipulation, a film that’s based around the humiliation,
subjugation and sexual assault of an attractive young woman and has little to
offer beyond that. And while the events depicted in the film are suggested by truth, things only
escalated as far as they did in one documented case. ONE! And that
was in Kentucky where they still think the telephone is the Devil’s Work. That means that in pretty much every instance the victims smelt a rat and
called a halt to the ordeal before things escalated out of control.

If Compliance teaches us anything, it’s
not that most of us are sheep who will mindlessly, unquestioningly follow
orders. It’s that (***minor
spoiler alert***
) if you’re going to make crank calls, DON’T DO IT FROM
YOUR OWN HOUSE! That’s not really
a good enough reason to retread an old episode of Law & Order: SVU

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email:

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