Movie review: A prank goes too far in disturbing 'Compliance'

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The tough drama "Compliance" fostered walkouts and shouting matches when it debuted at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and it's certainly a movie that's easier to think about than to sit through.

Inspired by a real-life case, it starts with Sandra (Ann Dowd), the harried manager of an Ohio fast-food restaurant, answering a phone call from someone claiming to be a cop. This "cop," we soon learn, is a prankster (played by Pat Healy) who accuses one of Sandra's employees, 19-year-old Becky (Dreama Walker), of stealing from a customer. The "cop" alternates between flattery and an authoritative air to get Sandra to strip-search Becky in what becomes the first of an increasingly degrading series of actions.

Writer-director Craig Zobel unfolds the story nearly in real-time, with long artful camera shots that build the tension in this sadistic battle of wills. The lurid tone nearly overpowers the movie's message about people's willingness to let authority figures override personal morality. But Dowd's performance — showing Sandra's eagerness to please the "cop" and her hesitancy to follow orders — burns in the mind long after the movie's over.; —



Opens Friday, Sept. 28, at the Tower Theatre; rated R for language and sexual content/nudity; 90 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit