‘Compliance,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Craig Zobel’s “Compliance” may be the creepiest movie of the year. It has no physical violence, no sex, barely even a raised voice – and yet it burrows into your brain and keeps burrowing, the longer you watch.

Based on a set of actual incidents, “Compliance” starts out simply enough: Sandra (Ann Dowd), the manager of a fast-food restaurant, gets a phone call from the police – and the officer on the phone says there’s a problem.

One of Sandra’s employees, a young woman named Becky (Dreama Walker), has allegedly stolen the wallet out of a customer’s purse while waiting on her. The police need the manager to hold Becky until the police can arrive.

As Sandra sequesters Becky in the back room and questions her about the charges – which Becky strenuously denies – the cop continues to talk into Sandra’s ear: Of course Becky’s going to deny it, he says. So he needs Sandra to search Becky for him. And not just search her – but strip-search her.

Quietly, without a lot of shouting or conflict, Sandra insists on doing what she’s told – and Becky, claiming innocence, complies, for fear of losing her job. Naked, finally, she seems to be innocent because Sandra comes up empty-handed.

But when Sandra has to get back to running the restaurant, the cop insists that she leave someone to watch Becky until he can get there. So Sandra hands off the phone to one of her other (male) employees. Once the cop gets him on the phone, the process begins again: The cop tells the new employee that he just needs him to search Becky – to strip-search her. Having not been in on the initial search, the employee complies.

And so it goes.

This review continues on my website.

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