Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Worst Movie Experience of the Year (And Not Because It Sucked): Compliance

Listen, Compliance is the best film, qualitatively, on this list. It's flawlessly directed and uncompromising, and includes at least one so-subtle-it's-masterful performance. It has an eighty-nine percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Eighty-nine percent.

The problem with Compliance is that it will sap your vitality and crush your soul and leave you questioning the innate goodness of the human species, including yourself and, if it applies, the woman sitting beside you, whom you only married the month before. And I'm not being (completely) melodramatic. When Compliance was in theaters, walkouts were common. Despondence is rarely what people want from their leisure time.

The hurt starts early. Sandra, manager of a generic fast food hut in Eastern Podunk, Everystate, U.S.A., gets a call from a policeman who says that her doe-eyed high school-age cashier, Becky, stole money from a patron. The officer needs Sandra to detain Becky until he gets there.

But then he's running behind. So he asks manager Sandra to strip-search Becky. In the storeroom. And to leave her locked in the room, naked but for an apron. Sandra hesitates, but the officer eases her conscience. It'll be quicker this way, he says. You want to help Becky, don't you? You're doing great. What follows is a fifty-car-pileup of personal violations brought to bear on poor doe-eyed Becky by the people she trusts to know what's best—people who see the wrongness of what's being asked and hesitate, but quickly acquiesce to the authority figure on the other end of the line. When halfway through you the film learn what you already suspected—that the voice on the phone isn't a cop, but a sleazeball playing mind games with unsuspecting, weak-willed people—the reveal's almost irrelevant. You're already hoarse from shouting "Seriously?!" at the screen like a Tourette's-afflicted Amy Poehler. It's the supposed good guys you loathe. Can't you people take some responsibility? Show some balls? Say no? Who wrote these characters?

When the film ends on a crushing nadir, you hate-Google "Compliance" only to learn that the film is a painfully faithful re-enactment of what happened in 2004 at a Kentucky McDonald's, and that no pervy wackjob has been convicted over this call (or any of the over sixty-nine others around the country).

Suddenly, Taken 2 doesn't look like such a bad choice. At least low-grade cinematic schlock can only ruin two hours, and not your faith in humanity.

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