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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz


Dangerously Unsettling

Obedience is an interesting thing. If someone told you to do something, what in your head would make you do it? Would it possibly because the person says they have power over you, because you have no suspicion, or because you're busy and unfocused? Compliance is a dangerously unsettling indie about how being taken advantage of can not only make victims suffer but expose the idiocy of those surrounding them.

Sandra (The Handmaid’s Tale Ann Dowd, whose performance in this film is probably what landed her the role of Aunt Lydia) is the Manager of a fast food restaurant that's facing their busiest season yet. Work is disrupted by a phone call from a local Police Officer (Pat Healy). He says he's in contact with the Regional Manager about a customer who says that one of Sandra’s employees Becky (Dreama Walker) stole money.

Becky is brought back to the restaurant's office where she denies the alleged theft to the officer. The officer tells Sandra that officers are investigating Becky’s house and that she has to be detained until the police arrive. Becky is then given a choice by the officer to go to jail or allow Sandra to strip search her. Becky initially agrees with the search much to her discomfort and as the day drags on and turns into night, the officer’s demands become more corrupt and turn sexual.

For the longest time, you only hear the officer's voice but never see his face. The most disturbing thing about Compliance (Which is based on a real case against McDonald's from 2004) isn't what the officers ask of Sandra and the people she gives the phone to but that they all complied with his requests. If someone in power asked the most horrible of you, would you comply because he's in power? Asking yourself what you would do is what this film is all about. Would you question the officer’s motives? Is he even an officer or is he just some loser looking to take advantage of someone?

Compliance is a quick 90-minute indie but manages to crash under the waves of your skin and stay there. The film is about questions, not answers, timing, not inconvenience and stupidity, not intelligence. You don't have to be smart to be powerful and that's a terrible reality that Compliance deals with. You'd have to have a lot of stamina to watch this film.

Be that what it may, Compliance is far from a conventional film. The Q&A session for it at Sundance back in 2012 turned into a screaming match with lots of walkouts. The film was effective. This is what happens when you make films with no censorship and coverups. You make it as brutally real as possible which is what it always should be, no matter the psychological cost. It's not that hard to just suck it up and deal with it (To watch the film). It really isn't, because you're hiding safely behind a screen.

This true story happened in Kentucky and what makes me so angry is that right now, there are so many people in America ( In every state generally speaking, but seemingly in southern areas) who just don't want to be told what to do (Masks people, just wear the damn masks, I mean come on). What is confusing to me is that it seems when you tell some people to do something to keep people safe, they'll make your life hell but when you tell them to do something to harm someone, they have no problem with it. I cannot emphasize enough how crucially relevant to this film is.

There's too many events like the ones that happen in Compliance but not enough films to back them up. Corruption is always more inhuman when you see it up close than it is in your head. Hearing about it and knowing it's horrible is never enough. Compliance is a wakeup call for a film. It pours water on audiences' faces telling them to snap out of it. Stop talking about corruption and look at it. Only when you see people that are truly beyond redemption in the company of those who are unfortunate enough to cross their path, can you really start to appreciate what it really is to be taken advantage of?

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