Cocktails and Movies Take Out Theater: “Compliance”

by Mike Reyes

A disturbing true story leads to one of the most disturbing films of the last few years on this week’s Take Out Theater

take out theater snacks_tray cocktails and moviesWe’re going to open this week’s #TakeOutTheater with a warning: this movie isn’t for everyone. In fact, the content in this film has been known to seriously disturb and put off audience members watching this film. It’s a brutal, devastating look at the abuse of trust, the illusion of power, and what happens when we let ourselves get carried away in the name of “cooperating with the authorities.”  It is not for everyone, but if you can handle it, it’s a really well made film that covers very disturbing subject matter. That subject matter being trust in our institutions of authority. It’s something that we’re raised with, something that is as inalienable as the rights that those institutions uphold. But what if a random stranger with malicious intent were to hijack one of those said institutions, or at least their guise? What’s more, what if that stranger had the trust of those who were our direct superiors, and could control them in any way shape or form?

Let’s take a look at:

The Film 

compliance cocktails and movie take out theaterCompliance
Directed By: Craig Zobel
Year Released: 2012
Starring: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, and Pat Healy
Rating: R (a strong R)
Runtime:  90 Minutes
Studio: Magnolia

Sandra (Ann Dowd) is a manager at an Ohio fast food restaurant. Eager to display her aptitude for leadership, she’ll do anything she can to show that she can handle anything thrown her way. Becky (Dreama Walker) is one of her subordinates. Young and pretty, she’s not very concerned with the job in front of her. To Sandra, it’s a career; but to Becky, it’s just a job. Both attitudes will be tested throughout the day ahead of them as a police officer has called Sandra to inform her that Becky has stolen money from a customer. The only problems are that she hasn’t stolen anything, and the man on the other end of the line is not a police officer. Through the course of the day, limits will be tested, boundaries of behavior will be pushed, and ultimately the truth will disgust everyone involved.

What makes this scenario all the more disgusting is that this is based on an actual chain of occurrences. (In fact, this same subject was covered in an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, where Robin Williams guest starred as the perpetrator.) In fact, this sort of incident has happened more times than you’d imagine, and yet it was allowed to happen around at least 70 times before it was put to a stop. Zobel makes sure to warn us of this fact only after we’ve seen the film’s events unfold, as if to punctuate the matter by saying “You think it was bad that it happened once? Try 70 times!”

Throughout this film we see Sandra as the woman who feels it’s her job to do everything right. While everyone else will question and delay with their following of orders, Sandra is quick to counter with something along the lines of “I can’t even trust you to do this.” In fact, the film divides its characters into two groups: those who question the increasingly bizarre orders being given, and those that follow in full faith that the system is telling them what to do. It’s no surprise that younger people mostly fall on one side and older people fall mostly on the other, but overall you’d be surprised who ends up following along and who decides to stand up to authority.

The most devastating aspect of the film is the slow, deliberate degradation of young Becky. Sandra, and eventually her fiancee Van, follow the orders that “Officer Daniels” puts forth to the letter. What starts as an initial accusation of theft swiftly progresses to an interrogation, which then progresses to a strip search, and ultimately winds up in territory that will have you livid with anger at the screen. Indeed, the first time I saw this movie, my girlfriend and her best friend were severely upset with what was transpiring. I couldn’t even believe what was happening, even before it got to that point, but the lengths that Becky is pushed to in order to clear herself are quite harrowing. The last half hour of the film will have you feeling angry, vengeful, and ultimately ready to talk about just who was wrong in their handling of the situation.

Compliance is a well acted, well written, and well produced affair; make no mistake about that. But honestly, it was a movie so ugly in its harsh truth that I never wanted to revisit it ever again. The only reason I watched it again was to refresh my mind as to how brilliantly dark it was. I know it seems like we do this a lot around here, but some seriously high praise has to go to Magnolia Entertainment for their work in bringing films like this to the attention of the masses with a simultaneous Limited Theatrical/On Demand release model, which is followed rather quickly by Home Video/Netflix Instant release.  This film makes us question just how far we’ll go to comply with the demands of authority, as well as what personal liberties we’ll sacrifice in the name of justice along the lines of the familiar “we were only following orders” line. It’s also a film that’ll make us question just how far others will go in that same regard. It’s not an easy film, nor is it particularly an “entertaining” film of casual delight. But it’s a well made film that covers some important questions a person has to ask themselves in the society we live in. Long story short, it is absolutely worth your time.

So after a serious, sober film like that, you might want to grab a drink with some friends and discuss the film that you’ve just seen. (This is highly recommended as a group view, as watching this alone might be asking a bit too much.) That said, we’re going to go with something simple yet delicious. An uncomplicated drink for a rather complicated movie.

The Drink

Jack and Coke

1 part Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
3 parts Coke®


Serve over ice in a tall glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.


Special thanks to Jack Daniels for their classic recipe, as well as the awesome liquor that’s made it famous! As always, thanks to all of you for coming back for another installment of #TakeOutTheater! Got any suggestions for film and drink pairings? Send ‘em our way through the Comments below, our Facebook/Twitter pages, or just email us. We’ll see you again next week!