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Craig Zobel
Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Philip Ettinger, Ashlie Atkinson, Nikiya Mathis, Ralph Rodriguez, Stephen Payne
Writing Credits:
Craig Zobel

Inspired by true events, Compliance tells the chilling story of just how far one might go to obey a figure of authority. On a particularly busy day at a suburban Ohio fast food joint, high-strung manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) receives a phone call from a police officer saying that an employee, a pretty young blonde named Becky (Dreama Walker), has stolen money from a customer. Convinced she's only doing what's right, Sandra commences the investigation, following step-by-step instructions from the officer at the other end of the line, no matter how invasive they become.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$16.427 thousand on 1 screen.
Domestic Gross
$318.622 thousand.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 1/8/2013

• “Interview with Director Craig Zobel”
• “Behind the Scenes”
• “AXS TV: A Look at Compliance
• Trailer and Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Compliance [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 31, 2013)

Most psych students learn about the Milgram Experiment. Yale’s Stanley Milgram used a “teaching session” that involved the pretend use of electric shocks administered by volunteers to show how far some people will follow authority; many would go deep into the pain threshold when ordered to do so.

2012’s Compliance follows that theme. Set at a busy fast food restaurant called ChickWich, manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) receives a phone call from a cop named Officer Daniels (Pat Healy). He claims that employee Becky (Dreama Walker) stole money from a customer, so he needs her assistance to deal with the matter.

As part of this, Sandra takes Becky to a storeroom and aids in the investigation. This starts slowly but becomes more and more invasive, as Officer Daniels orders Sandra to take more extreme measures such as a strip search. We watch as matters spiral out of control.

When it comes to a discussion of the film, I find it tough to know how much plot information to relate. I’ll try not to say too much – and won’t go beyond what the synopsis on IMDB – but if you want to avoid any potential spoilers, you should probably jump to the technical parts of the review.

Most movies “based on true events” take their inspirations loosely. That’s not the case with Compliance, which uses an incident at a Kentucky McDonald’s as its template. A look at what happened there in 2004 shows many similarities between the movie and the reality.

In this instance, I think it’s more important than usual that the fiction match the fact due to the nature of the material. As you watch Compliance, you’ll find yourself in a state of disbelief that matters could go as far as they do. Would a cop really order a civilian to make a naked girl do jumping jacks to try to get money to fall out of her vagina? Of course not, and it seems insane that anyone would go along with such a command.

Except someone did – and they did even more than that, all in the name of obeying authority.

That gives Compliance a heft that it otherwise might’ve lacked. Not that I’m saying it wouldn’t have been an interesting film if it’d failed to adhere closely to fact, but when we lose our hopes that we’re just watching movie fantasy, the product hits harder.

Favoring subtlety over shock, Compliance isn’t a film that’ll give you real jolts. Instead, it builds slowly and treats events in an understated way that allows them more power. It makes sense that the alleged cop’s requests start small and build, as this helps draw in the participants; each new demand escalates the oddness just a little bit, so the steps don’t seem extreme. They end up in absurd territory, but they take a while to get there, so we can more easily believe the outcomes.

One potential problem here comes from the reveal that “Officer Daniels” doesn’t exist – he’s some schmuck making an extremely elaborate prank call. We learn this maybe halfway through the film, and the revelation creates potential concerns, as it takes away some of the drama. We’re a bit more invested in the nature of the events when we think it’s a real policeman who makes the demands; when we find out it’s not, we potentially might feel like the characters who continue to listen to him are dopes.

That said, I’m still not sure how I feel about the reveal. On one hand, it does take away from some of the tension, but on the other, it also removes some of the unreality from the situation. As the “officer’s” demands get more and more outrageous, we find it tougher to believe a real cop would make them. It’s probably necessary for us to understand that there’s no actual law enforcement personnel involved or the film would lose us.

Whatever potential flaws pop up, Compliance remains tense and well-executed. It takes a chilling real-life situation and dares us to see how far it’ll go – and what impact it’ll have in those involved. This becomes a scary thriller made even more unnerving by the reality behind it.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Compliance appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This wasn’t a killer transfer, but it seemed very good.

No real issues related to sharpness. A few wide shots seemed just a tad soft, but those popped up infrequently. Instead, the vast majority of the movie looked concise and accurate. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to appear, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws also caused no distractions.

Colors were fine. The movie went with a fairly natural palette that favored a mild golden tint or a bluish hue. The tone looked fine within the design parameters. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows demonstrated good clarity. Overall, this ended up as a positive image.

One shouldn’t expect sonic fireworks from an isolated drama such as Compliance, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack remained subdued. The mix featured good stereo music and decent environmental information but little more substantial than that. The surrounds played a minor role, so don’t expect much from them.

At least audio quality was good. Speech appeared natural and concise, with no problems on display. Music sounded vivid and full, and effects were perfectly acceptable. As noted, they rarely offered anything to make them stand out from the crowd, but they worked fine. I thought this was a pretty average track without any qualities that allowed it to impress but it achieved its goals.

A few minor extras round out the disc. During a 10-minute, nine-second Interview with Director Craig Zobel, we hear about story/character areas, influences and themes, production design and visual choices, and his intentions for the film. Zobel doesn’t give us a ton of notes, but he offers some decent thoughts.

Behind the Scenes runs two minutes, three seconds and includes notes from Zobel and actors Pat Healy and Ann Dowd. They discuss cast and performances, story and themes. It’s too brief to give us anything of value.

Finally, AXS TV: A Look at Compliance goes for three minutes, 45 seconds and features Zobel as he tells us about the story and situations. It’s essentially a shorter version of the 10-minute interview, so if you saw that, you can skip it.

The disc opens with ads for Deadfall, Jack & Diane, A Royal Affair and Nobody Walks. These show up under Also from Magnolia as well, and we get the trailer for Compliance, too.

Based surprisingly closely on real events, Compliance packs a strong psychological wallop. It shows how far people will go when ordered by alleged authority figures, and it develops its themes in a smooth, tense manner. The Blu-ray provides very good picture and adequate audio but skimps on supplements. I’d like more bonus materials – there should be a lot to discuss about this film – but I’ll still give this one my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
2 3:
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