In an attempt to present a true occurrence, Writer/Director Craig Zobel brings his sophomore effort, Compliance starring Ann Dowd (The Informant, Garden State) and Dreama Walker (TV’s Don’t Trust the B*** in Apt. 23).
The film tells the story of Sandra (Dowd), a manager of a fast-food restaurant that receives a phone call from a man claiming to be a police officer that claims one of her employees Becky (Walker), stole money from a customer’s purse. Based on true events, this man, who calls himself Officer Daniels, persuades Sandra and other individuals to not only shame Becky but to violate and ravage any persona that was once that former girl. What happens to young Becky is one of the most abnormal and malicious pranks ever recorded.
The film’s agenda is to present the “facts.” It does just that and gets our attention. Point given to Zobel, however there are not enough details or precision on the surrounding sequences to offer anything more than a shock-valued experience that could have been told on the eleven o’clock news. The thematic narrative that surrounds the events is entirely forced and feels synchronized to lead to rising actions that catapult the story forward. Zobel also attempts to shine a light on job-etiquette and inappropriate behavior in the workplace but with no sanctioned reason or emphasis on these ideals, any message sent isn’t received. He blows over the subject in a one-two shot that by movie’s end is nothing that could generate a heated discussion. If anything, it simply shows there are people out there who just lack common sense. I could have told you that in one sentence.
What pulls you through the story is the extraordinary turn by Ann Dowd. Dowd has been an under-the-radar character actress delivering in brief performances for years. Her credits which include Zach Braff’s Garden State (2004) and Apt Pupil (1998) are mere dots on her thespian canvas. She could and should be one of her best working women today. Dowd’s uneasy dedication to Sandra is purely sensational and is solidly one of the better female performances of the year. Walker’s vacant and internalizing turn doesn’t affect in the manner it must. A young girl going through an ordeal that is as frightening as it is humiliating should be visually external and chronically emotional. Walker struggles with the believability a bit.
Compliance is diminutively sufficient and blandly adequate with no additional layers that elevate its small independent nature. It feels rather one note riding on the promise of a distinctive tale that never totally comes to fulfillment.
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