The VPH Review: Compliance

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more disturbing movie that had no gore or violence, and that took place solely in a fast food restaurant than the indie flick Compliance.  This is a movie that just makes you shake your head the whole time because you are just so frustrated and aggravated at the characters that it makes you want to jump through the screen and just yell at these people for being so stupid.  The movie caused such a stir that at the Sundance Film Festival people walked out of the theater in disgust and during the Q&A following the movie, people were YELLING and SCREAMING at the cast and crew for making this movie.  It’s a movie where the concept is so absurd that it must be true.  The movie Compliance will not win any awards or even be noticed by the Academy for the Oscar race.  The film was only released in a maximum of the 21 cinemas and made a measly $331,000 at the box office.

Every now and then a movie or a performance flies totally under the radar that you wonder why distributor make it more of a wide release.  Hal Holbrook clearly should have won Best Actor for his performance in That Evening Sun in 2009 instead of Jeff Bridges for his performance in Crazy Heart. It was almost an exact remake of the movie Tender Mercies in which Robert Duvall won for Best Actor back in 1984.  Honeslty, Robert Duvall probably shouldn’t have even won considering that Al Pacino was snubbed for his performance in Scarface, one of the most memorable characters in cinema history and Robert DeNiro was also snubbed for his performance in The King of Comedy by Martin Scorcese.

Compliance tells the story of the strip search prank call scam that occurred in the late 90’s – early 2000’s where a prank caller would call various fast food places and pretend to be a police officer and coerce the people on the other end of the phone to do bizarre and crazy shit.  The incident occurred at least 70 times in 30 states before an arrests was finally made in Mount Washington, Kentucky in 2004. The film is almost 100% accurate aside from the dialogue because the director used the actual surveillance camera that filmed the entire incident.

After viewing this movie one cannot think back to the Milgram Experiment which occurred in the late 70’s and you could possibly make an argument about Nazism and how people obey authority figures who are telling them to do acts that go against their conscience.  The Milgram experiment was in fact in direct response to the trial of Adolf Eichmann.  Via Wikipedia – Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the question: “Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust had mutual intent, in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?” In other words, “Was there a mutual sense of morality among those involved?” Milgram’s testing suggested that it could have been that the millions of accomplices were merely following orders, despite violating their deepest moral beliefs.

A movie like this will inspire much debate, as it should.  I watched it with three other people and we were getting into heated debates about who is to blame and who should be held responsible.  Part of the interview and actual footage can be seen here but do yourself a favor and watch this movie before you do.


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