"I'll do...everything that you need."
In April 2004, a man going by the name of "officer Scott" made a call to a McDonalds restaurant in Mount Washington, Kentucky, asking about a young female cashier who was reportedly involved in a theft at the establishment. The caller requested that the local manager hold the cashier in the back of the store and surveil her until authorities arrived. Over the next three-and-a-half hours she was essentially held captive, strip searched, and assaulted both mentally and sexually all under false and completely insane pretense.
Such is the plot of Craig Zobel's COMPLIANCE, an almost step-by-step account of that day in Kentucky. The names have changed, as has the venue (the deliciously sounding Chickwich), but the consequences are no less sickening. Becky is an ordinary girl in a run-of-the-mill job. Immediately before the final credits we're told that there have been 70 similar cases reported in 30 states across the US, an absolutely baffling statistic. Once you watch, you'll fully understand why.
Dreama Walker plays Becky, and she is outstanding. The film would fail without the reactions and simple body language that Becky requires. She begins filled with sass and defiance. That soon melts away, and she is washed over with a vulnerability that you wouldn't think initially possible. By the end of the ordeal she is like a broken animal. Her eyes are dark and submissive; her body willing to accept any punishment for a deed undeserved. She embodies the full spectrum of human emotion. A remarkable transformation.
Zobel puts you in an extremely uneasy position. The scenes are intimate, but uncomfortably so. He incorporates a lot of close-up shots which only emphasize the unsavory nature. The manager, Sandra (Ann Dowd) sends in staff to watch over Becky. First it's Kevin, another minion who appears to smell something dubious, and rightfully so, yet he fails to act on his suspicions. Later, Sandra asks her fiancé for help. He speaks to the voice on the phone, it dictating him to have Becky disrobe and perform vile acts in an attempt to prove her innocence. COMPLIANCE goes to some insanely dark places, leading to some absolutely dumbfounding responses.
The voice and body behind the "officer Daniels" is Pat Healy. Let's just say the dude has locked down reprehensible. At first his voice is all we hear: a faceless enemy, though his form soon emerges. We see him smoking a cigarette, later making a sandwich. These everyday actions only make him all the more creepy. His face smirks incredulously when his requests--as outlandish as they are--are granted. The crescendo occurs when his daughter returns from school. He hugs her lovingly. We sit, mouths agape.
After watching COMPLIANCE, it's settled. Truth is far stranger than fiction. No question, whatsoever. You will squirm, and you will swear, and you will shake your head in absolute disbelief that something like this could happen. Let alone 70 times. The most absurd thing is that while Becky is in the thick of things, no one ever questions what is going on. Never. Not once. The film wraps opportunely, which I think is a shame. I would have preferred something far more ambiguous than what we got, but that's a small misgiving overall. This film reminds us that there are some weird, disturbed people in this world. Unfortunately, not all of them can be rid off by hitting the 'end call' button.