A prank call pushes McJob employees to chilling extremes in Craig Zobel’s drama


© 2012 Bad Cop Bad Cop Film Productions, LLC

Director: Craig Zobel
Starring: Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Ann Dowd
Time Out rating:

McJob monotony turns a soft-headed group of employees into exploited sex objects – McIdiots? – in Craig Zobel’s powder keg of a one-location drama. (Audience rage spilled into the post-screening Q&As at Sundance, yet the script is based largely on a real-life incident.) Becky (Dreama Walker) is the blonde Ohio counter-girl at fictional chain ChickWich; blithely, she shares TMI about her ripped boyfriends, while middle-aged supervisor Sandra (the absorbingly blank Ann Dowd) takes her knocks in half-heard whispers. When a phone call comes in from a police officer conveying the charge that Becky’s been stealing, Sandra shifts into corporate-zombie mode, taking her defiant employee to the office to perform a strip search and worse.

You can’t believe what you’re watching: Compliance, true to its title, digs into the rarely explored subject of psychological acquiescence (behavioural psychologist Stanley Milgram should get a co-writing credit), with common-sense dignity being the first casualty. Perhaps hot for escalation, Zobel bobbles a few of the details: too soon in the film do we learn that the call is a prank – whereas withholding the info might have made us dupes, too – and some of the nudity comes within shouting distance of exploitation. But the movie’s frightening momentum can’t be denied; indeed, it’s the whole point. When critical thinking is reduced to numbered choices on a value menu, we’ll turn ourselves into the final meal.

Compliance opens at Cinema Qualite, Shinjuku on June 29

By Joshua Rothkopf
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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