The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Compliance | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Compliance

Directed by: Craig Zobel
Starring: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Philip Ettinger, Ashlie Atkinson

Posing as a police officer, sociopath Healy calls a fast food restaurant and accuses a staff member of stealing from a customer.
Usually I write a review the day after I first watch the movie as I like to give it time to sink in. It's been three days since I watched "Compliance" and I'm still not sure whether it's a good film or not. There are two things I am sure of though; this is one of the must see films of the year and Pat Healy is American cinema's best kept secret, a chameleon of an actor. Remember the name.
The event portrayed here is non-fictional, based on true events which occurred over seventy times in thirty states across America. A tele-marketer, skilled at manipulating people over the phone, would call various retail establishments posing as a police officer and accuse a staff member of stealing money from a customer. Here his target is ChickWich, a fictional fast food chain managed by middle-aged Dowd and staffed by a variety of young slackers. Dowd receives a call from the fake cop, Healy, who informs her that Walker, a pretty young staff member, has committed the theft. Dowd takes Walker into a backroom where most of the film plays out.
Healy claims he is busy with a larger investigation at Walker's home and won't be able to visit the restaurant anytime soon. Walker is given a choice, she can spend the night in jail or she can allow Dowd to strip search her on the premises. Both Dowd and Walker are initially uncomfortable with this suggestion but decide it's the easier of the two options. Despite carrying out his request, Healy isn't fully satisfied and makes more demands which escalate in their oddness. Due to it being a busy Friday night, Dowd calls her boyfriend Camp, who she has misled her employees into believing is her fiance, and asks him to keep watch on Walker. She passes him the phone and Healy realizes he can really push the limits with this guy. 
Up to this point the movie had me hooked, mainly due to the fantastic performances by Dowd and Healy, but the introduction of Camp had me mentally stepping back from what I was watching. Apparently what transpires actually occurred in real life but it's so hard to swallow that it damages the integrity of the film. I had to keep reminding myself this was a true story as it plays out like a scenario from a cheap porno flick. Part of the problem is the acting by Walker and Camp, simply not strong enough to make the situation believable. 
I don't live in America so can't comment on the attitudes toward authority figures in that country but certainly where I'm from the public maintains a healthy mistrust of those in positions of power. That's probably the case across Europe where I imagine audiences will struggle with the film. By sticking to the truth, Zobel has ironically made his movie a punishing test of the viewer's ability to suspend disbelief. What alternative does he have? A European cut where Dowd tells Healy to screw himself within five minutes? Americans will undoubtedly find this movie a lot more involving. Us disobedient  Europeans will have to keep telling ourselves "It's not just a movie!"