By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on January 07, 2013

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Dear Rich Bologna
Supervising Sound Editor

Dear Rich,

Sounding authentic is so important. In your line of work, if the audience senses a false note, the spell you cast can easily be broken. You've got to know exactly when to be smooth and convincing, and when to ratchet things up a notch. But how far do think you could take that auditory power of suggestion? According to your new film Compliance, terribly, terribly far.

Written and directed by Craig Zobel, the story is inspired by true events (and, according to some news stories, seems to stick pretty close to the facts.) It's about a prank call to a fast food restaurant that resulted in the stripping and sexual assault of a young female employee. A rather gullible manager (Ann Dowd) is told by a supposed police officer over the phone that one of her employees (Dreama Walker) is suspected of stealing. What follows would sound almost impossible believe, if it hadn't actually happened. That's enough to compel our interest, but does the twisted tale hold up as a film?

Just barely.

The story wisely opens broad enough to introduce us to a wider cast of characters. Some will weave in and out of the main storyline, which is eventually confined to a storage room. And for the first half of the film, Officer Daniels' identity (Pat Healy) is left to our imagination. But about half way through (after most people would have realized something was wrong), we get to actually see the face behind the voice. And until then, the performance is rather confident and persuasive. After the trickster is revealed, we quickly feel above our characters. As you can imagine, that sort of kills the magic.

Compliance doesn't qualify as a horror film, but it's just as uncomfortable as one. When it succeeds, it's more of a character study than an excise in exploitation. The last shot in particular, elevates our understanding of what happened by wryly introducing an important ingredient to the manager's personality. What's less satisfactory is the actual climax of the affair, which is done tastefully (pun intended), but is treated with the least conviction. Perhaps you filmmakers knew it was the hardest logical gap to bridge and therefore didn't even try. But how else can you convince us? Accepting the fact is not enough, you need to sell us on the story. And obviously that's not impossible.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt,


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