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last update 3.Apr.13
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dir-scr Craig Zobel
prd Tyler Davidson, Sophia Lin, Lisa Muskat, Theo Sena, Craig Zobel
with Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, Pat Healy, Bill Camp, Philip Ettinger, James McCaffrey, Ashlie Atkinson, Stephen Payne, Nikiya Mathis, Ralph Rodriguez, Amelia Fowler, Jeffrey Grover
walker and dowd release US 17.Aug.12,
UK 22.Mar.13
12/US 1h30

london film fest
Compliance Inspired by true events, this contained drama is both riveting and infuriating. It may be almost impossible to believe that anyone would be so stupid in such a serious situation. But as things escalate far beyond reason, filmmaker Zobel continually pushes us to fight back.

At an Ohio fast-food restaurant, manager Sandra (Dowd) is expecting her boyfriend Van (Camp) to propose while employee Becky (Walker) is juggling three boys. Then Sandra gets a call from Officer Daniels (Healy), who claims that Becky has been seen stealing cash from a customer. And there's a bigger investigation as well. Sandra cooperates, even when things turn heavy-handed and Daniels pushes her far beyond what's reasonable. Then he takes it even further, making shocking demands of the assistant manager (Atkinson), young employee Kevin (Ettinger) and even Van.

Dowd is simply perfect as Sandra, a manager trying to be friends with her young employees, who of course think of her as uselessly out of touch no matter what she does. Of course she also has to nag them to do their jobs. And when the police call, she wants to help however she can. She always tries to do the right thing, questioning every request. But from the start we have a nagging doubt: how does she knows that the man on the phone is a cop?

Because to us what he is saying sounds preposterous. Even asking Sandra to search Becky's pockets, handbag and clothing is transgressive. But this is just the start, and it's difficult to believe that Sandra has so little common sense. Becky is more sceptical, but is also vulnerable. And everyone else responds to Daniels in a different way. All of the actors make this feel almost too real.

As the title suggests, this quietly horrific film explores how far people will go to comply with someone they perceive to be a cop, even if he's bullying and unreasonable. The events depicted are hugely disturbing, and it's impossible not to believe that every person in the room would put a stop to this right from the start. At least we'd like to think we would. So as an exercise in provoking a deep reaction, this film is alarmingly clever.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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Gimme the Loot
dir-scr Adam Leon
prd Dominic Buchanan, Natalie Difford, Jamund Washington
with Tashiana Washington, Ty Hickson, Zoe Lescaze, Meeko Gattuso, Sam Soghor, Adam Metzger, Joshua Rivera, Melvin Mogoli
jimbo and the eels
release US 22.Mar.13,
UK 3.May.13
12/US 1h21

london film fest
Gimme the Loot Lively and enjoyable, this freeform comedy-drama feels somewhat underdeveloped both in its script and performances, which makes it not entirely believable. But the characters are likeable, and it's shot with a terrific sense of the New York locations.

Sofia and Malcolm (Washington and Hickson) are teens who scam their way through life, stealing whatever they need, including the spray-paint for their graffiti bombs. Now they want to do something memorable, but they need $500 to bribe their way into the Mets' stadium to make their mark. Sofia tries to collect a debt and sell some merchandise, while Malcolm makes a drug delivery that introduces him to rich girl Ginnie (Lescaze). He instantly falls for her, while also planning to steal her antique jewellery collection. If only one of these ideas actually worked.

Intriguingly, Sofia and Malcolm aren't portrayed as criminals, but rather opportunistic kids who spend more time and energy trying to steal things than any job would require. Their banter is rude and funny: Sofia talks tough to everyone she meets, while Malcolm is a goofy charmer. And their antics seem rather silly simply because we know they're not really that desperate. Why they are so urgently obsessed with this big stunt is never made clear, aside from the general cultural need for instant fame.

Leon directs with a lively sense of physicality as Sofia and Malcolm sneak across rooftops and trawl the streets and parks for any opportunity they can find. Washington and Hickson have terrific chemistry together, with snappy improv-style dialog that's often authentically awkward. Hickson sometimes tries a bit too hard, but this nicely reveals Malcolm's gawky exuberance. Actually, all of the actors overplay their roles in an attempt to reveal their characters' motivations. So the film is awash in attitude and bravado.

This overstated approach kind of undermines the film's street-level approach, especially since the plot is as meandering and aimless as the people themselves. It's as if everyone is workshopping characters who aren't quite here yet. But if it's not always convincing, it's still amusingly ramshackle mainly because Sofia and Malcolm are so hopeless that it's impossible not to enjoy watching them. But honestly, no one will miss the irony that this kind of life is much more stressful than actually finding work.

15 themes, language, violence
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Papadopoulos & Sons
dir-scr Marcus Markou
prd Sara Butler
with Stephen Dillane, Georges Corraface, Selina Cadell, Frank Dillane, Georgia Groome, Thomas Underhill, Ed Stoppard, Cosima Shaw, Cesare Taurasi, George Savvides, Jimmy Roussounis, Alexander Hanson
dillane release UK 29.Mar.13
12/UK 1h46
Papadopoulos & Sons Solid performances and a nice sense of values and priorities gives this low-key film enough depth to make it worth a look. It feels a bit slow and mopey, but there's life in the characters and a reassuring but corny approach that makes us feel like there might still be some decent people left in the world.

When the economy crashes, Greek entrepreneur Harry (Dillane) is in big trouble. A single dad, he relies on Mrs Parrington (Cadell) to help with his three kids: James (Frank Dillane) is more passionate about gardening than law studies; 18-year-old Katie (Groome) obsesses about boys; and young son Theo (Underhill) thinks he's a businessman. And when administrators (Stoppard and Shaw) are called in, they all must downsize drastically. But his estranged brother Spiros (Corraface) wants to re-open the family's defunct fish and chips cafe rather than sell it off.

Gentle and likeable, the film balances Harry's cynicism with lively characters that are nicely underplayed by the cast. The script pulls the rug out from under him in the first 20 minutes of the story. And as the tightly wound Harry reluctantly goes into business with the "crazy" Spiros, the story becomes a tug of war between old world values and ruthless modern day business practice. With an extra bit of ethnicity thrown in as they clash with a Turkish kebab shop owner (Savvides) whose son (Taurasi) catches Katie's eye.

Of course we know Harry will eventually swallow his pride and stop behaving like a spoiled brat long enough to learn some Important Life Lessons about What's Truly Important. Much of this is played in a low-key, relaxed way, with realistic dialog and situations that are undemanding and sometimes predictable, including more than the one romance. And there are also some rather corny touches, mainly in Stoppard's arrogant prattle and Underhill's geeky goofiness.

There isn't much originality here, but writer-director Markou's humane approach holds our interest as the story meanders amiably through some momentous events. It's never sharp and edgy enough, never generates very much comedy or drama, and isn't afraid to indulge in sentimentality. But the issues that gurgle under the surface are thoughtful, reminding us that respecting our roots, enjoying life and maintaining our integrity are the real signs of success.

15 themes, language
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Simon Killer
dir-scr Antonio Campos
prd Sean Durkin, Josh Mond, Matt Palmieri
with Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Constance Rousseau, Lila Salet, Michael Abiteboul, Solo, Nicolas Ronchi, Alex Desjoux, Marc Gaviard, Alexandra Neil, Etienne Rotha Moeng
diop and corbet release US 5.Apr.13,
UK 12.Apr.13
12/US 1h45

Simon Killer A dark character study, this disturbing drama seems designed to annoy and provoke audiences. This is partly because the sociopath at the film's centre is so realistically nasty. And also because the filmmaking itself is wilfully manipulative. So we admire the direction and acting even if we're not convinced that there's much else here.

Simon (Corbet) is a young academic who heads to Paris to get over a messy break-up. Wandering the streets alone, he stumbles into a bar and meets the prostitute Victoria (Diop). But paying for her services isn't enough, so he worms his way into her life, becoming indispensable to her and goading her into blackmailing some of her married clients. This doesn't go as well as he'd hoped, so he rekindles an acquaintance with another young woman, Marianne (Rousseau). But she isn't quite as open to his manipulative ways.

A variation on Patricia Highsmith's Ripley, Simon is an amoral charmer with virtually no moral centre. In the opening scenes, he has our sympathies. It's only as we get to know him that we begin to worry, because it's harder to tell whether his motives are villainous or callous. Certainly, Corbet sharply plays him as a tormented man to whom women are little more than objects of lust. And indeed the film barely develops their characters even though the actresses throw themselves fully into the roles.

Writer-director Campos encourages his cast to improvise dialog in both English and French, although much of what they say seems irrelevant since Simon isn't actually listening to anyone. And it's not just because his French is a bit limited. Through each scene, we pick up on Simon's internalised anger, which lashes out in ways that are both passive-aggressive and more outrageously violent.

Simply shot, the film favours long, intimate takes and open emotions. Odd visual blurriness and strobe-flashes make this journey even more uncomfortable, along with a score that blurts chords when we least expect them. But we've seen through Simon's pathological lies early on, so his charms never work on us. And we don't know enough about his victims to care about them either. Which leaves this as a somewhat dull exercise in human cruelty. Which could very possibly be what Campos was going for.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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