The freshlyworded 2 minute review: ‘Compliance’ – a very disturbing experience

Compliance_Movie_PosterWhat’s being reviewed?


What is it ?

A movie made in 2012.

What’s it about?

Based on a true story – or more accurately many true stories – Compliance is about a hoax phone call made to a fast food joint. The caller pretends to be a police officer and forces Sandra, the manager of the story to detain and strip search Becky, a pretty, blonde employee who works behind the counter. ‘Officer Daniels’ says Becky stole money from a customer and is being investigated for other crimes. He tells Becky she can either be stripped and searched in the back office of the restaurant or be taken to the police cells and locked up for the night. Later when the restaurant gets busy, Officer Daniels suggests that Sandra put a male in charge of watching over Becky, now naked, except for an apron…

If you only know one thing…

As unbelievable as it sounds, this film is an accurate depiction of real events at a McDonald’s in Mt Washington, Kentucky in 2004. It is one of about 70 hoax calls made across the USA where the caller duped managers of fast food outlets into strip-searching, humiliating and sexually abusing customers and staff. The caller was thought to be a 38-year-old prison warden, who was brought to trial but found not guilty by a jury due to lack of direct evidence. The caller used a disposable mobile phone and a pre-paid call card.

Is it any good?

Yes,I found it utterly engrossing and very disturbing. The acting is excellent and needs to be for the audience to accept the unlikely series of events that unfold. The acting is particularly good from Ann Dowd, who plays the do-good manager Sandra, Dreama Walker as Becky and Pat Healy as the creepy Officer Daniels.

What I liked most about it?

It’s voyeuristic quality, where it draws the viewer in and makes them almost complicit in the vile acts. It also makes you question, how you would behave in the same situation, from each character’s point of view. You want to watch and turn away. I also like the setting. The film is set almost entirely in a fast food restaurant called ChickWich on a snow winters day. The diabolical deeds go on in the back office while customers eat burgers and chips, drink sodas and socialise.

Famed film critic, Roger Ebert liked the film: “There is the uncomfortable realization that if a TSA agent (the person who screens you at a US airport) wanted to strip-search us at an airport, we might agree. Or would we? Would you?”

An interesting thing to ponder:

While you may balk at how easily Sandra, the store manager was sucked into the hoax or be disgusted at how Van, Sandra’s boyfriend followed orders, a famous 1960s experiment by behavioral scientist Stanley Milgram found that subjects would administer potentially lethal – so they believed – electric shocks to others even though they could hear their screams and pleadings through the wall. They did so because Milgram,  dressed in a white laboratory coat, stethoscope and clipboard, represented authority and most test subjects simply obeyed his orders.

How much time do you have to invest?

Compliance is just over an hour and twenty minutes long.

How do I watch to it?

If you’re living in Australia, you can watch Compliance for free on SBS on Demand (as of February 2015). Otherwise, search for it online. Here’s the official website.

Can you recommend something similar?

Happiness, a film made in 1998 by Todd Solondz filled with weirdos and perverts, plus a great performance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Would you like to ‘go large?’ ‘Super Size Me’ and McDonald’s a decade on

super-size-meHere’s an old joke. A man walks into a McDonald’s…

He order a quarter pounder with cheese meal.

Before he has time to lay a $10 note on the table, the fresh-eyed young lady behind the counter asks: “Would you like to ‘go large?”

Doesn’t she just mean ‘super size’? he wonders to himself. Sensibly, he declines the upgrade.

A minute late, his meal is on a tray in front of him…

It’s just over 10 years since Morgan Spurlock made Super Size Me (the film was released in September 2004), a low-budget documentary about the fast food industry, where he nearly killed himself eating a McDonald’s meal three times a day for a month, and where he forced himself to ‘super-size’ his meal whenever it was offered.

I watched Super Size Me for the first time recently (it aired late one night) and thought it a very engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining film, if you can stomach watching a young bloke quickly push his previously fit and healthy body toward’s ruination to prove a point about the evils of the fast food industry.

The film was made for just $65,000 and grossed almost $12 million. Made two year’s after Michael Moore’s groundbreaking Bowling for Columbine, it cemented documentary film-making as a mainstream film genre, earned an Academy Award Nomination and dozens of other film prizes.

Anyone who remembers the film will remember that famously gross scene, when Spurlock eats a double quarter-pounder supersize meal about the size of his car steering wheel and then, soon after, vomits it all up out the window of his car.

Morgan Spurlock: My arms… I feel like I’ve got some McSweats goin’. My arms got the McTwitches going in here from all the sugar that’s going in my body right now. I’m feeling a little McCrazy.

Over the course of the film Spurlock develops numerous medical conditions – high cholesterol, strange bodily sensations, depression and finally fast food addiction with his team of doctors and specialists flabbergasted at the decline of his health.


Not only did Spurlock show how unhealthy McDonald’s food is – very high in fat, salt and sugar – but also how the fast food industry had gained control of America’s lucrative high school lunch menus and how it spends billions of marketing dollars every year to virtually brainwash young kids into consuming its products via its catchy advertising, bright colours and cheap meals.

Morgan Spurlock: In 2001, on direct media advertising…McDonald’s spent US$1.4 bn worldwide…[By comparison] In its peak year the [US] Five-a-Day Vegetable Campaigns total advertising budget in all media was a lowly $2m.

At the end of the film, and thankfully not dead, Spurlock declares a victory of sorts with McDonald’s announcing an end to its super size offer.

Or has it? It was me who ordered that McDonalds meal. Was there anything really different in principle (yes the quantities may be a little smaller) between “going large” and super-sizing’?

Over the years some things have changed. McDonald’s has introduced healthier menu items like salads, water and yoghurts, while in 2012 it started including kilojoule labelling in all its restaurants.

But deep down, it’s the same philosophy driving the company: greasy burgers, made cheap, sold in their millions.

If it had changed, the woman behind the counter would have asked if I wanted a salad or fries with my burger (as is a healthier option). Instead, she asked me: “Would I like to go large?”

Of course I am an adult and can make an educated choice, children are far more impressionable and McDonald’s is fighting harder than ever for it’s new generation of customers.

It continues to promote its ‘Happy Meals‘ complete with toys and popular movie tie-ins. (In its PR spin it makes the ridiculous claim that toys are “a response to the desire of parents for their child’s Mcdonald’s experience to be a fun and special occasion”.)

McDonald’s also continues to sponsor local youth sports events including athletics, rugby league, union, AFL, soccer and netball.

In Melbourne, my home town, McDonald’s has kept its restaurant contract with the government’s Royal Children’s Hospital and will also have a restaurant in the new Monash Hospital, when it opens in 2017.

It also has the backing of the recently appointed Labor Victorian government with premier Daniel Andrews – a former health minister no less – defending the company from suggestions that its hospitals should perhaps consider a healthier food offering.

Mr Andrews told people – including parents, doctors and nutritionists – to “get over themselves” and said McDonald’s at the children’s hospital was “here to stay”.

McDonald’s will argue that it gives millions of dollars to sports programs, children’s charities and community events and that it creates jobs, which is true.

But what it gets back is billions of dollars in revenue –  the fast food giant has about 20 per cent of the $17 billion Australian market – and millions of new customers, many of whom are young and impressionable.

This in a country with one of he highest rates of obesity in the world – double what it was 20 years – it seems we are losing far more than we are gaining.

As for the end to McDonald’s super sizing, which Morgan Spurlock proclaimed a decade ago was a direct result of the popularity of his film, it seems a pretty hollow victory now.

(Admission: the author does occasionally eat fast food, including McDonald’s. I usually wish I hadn’t).

Still crazy after 57 years: the KFC bucket remains on the menu

kfc bucketEvery once in a while, for reasons I cannot explain or begin to fathom, I find myself craving – against my better judgement, no, against my better nature – something from KFC.

Such an evil craving grabbed me this weekend, somewhere between Geelong and Ocean Grove. Next minute I found myself doing a u-turn at the lights and pulling into the distinctive red and white shop and standing in line.

There was a woman in front of me and it was taking ages for the pimply KFC staff snatched from pre-school to fill her order.

What was taking so long?

Then I saw the ‘super variety bucket‘ coming together with it six pieces of original recipe chicken along with six crispy strips, six nuggets, one maxi popcorn chicken, two large chips, one large drink and three dipping sauces.

variety bucket

And I started thinking. Yes, like every other fast food chain, KFC (formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken before they dropped the word “fried” to sound healthier) offers a number of healthy options.

But it’s the only fast food chain I know of that offers its meals by the bucket.

You can super size a McDonald’s meal that might squeeze into a bucket, but at least it doesn’t actually come in one.

And you could squeeze a couple of Dominos  or Pizza Hut pizzas into a bucket too, but they’re traditionalists at heart and still prefer to serve pizza in a recycle friendly cardboard box with those cute tiny plastic tables to stop the cheese sticking to the lid.

So I stood in the queue thinking about the bucket being assembled at the counter and remarked (to myself of course not wanting to offend the large woman in front of me) that I could not believe theys still offer a bucket of fried food at KFC to purchase to anyone with $18 in their pocket.

(Also available by the bucket: 12 pieces of chicken plus sides for $24 and 16 pieces plus sides for $30)

There is, nor will there ever be, anything appealing about food served in a bucket.

A bucket is what you put offal in. A bucket is for the slops. A bucket is what you dip a dirty rag in when you’re cleaning the floor. There’s a sick bucket and a vomit bucket. And in Trainspotting there’s three buckets: one for piss, one for shite and one for puke.

But traditions die hard. Since 1957, KFC has offered customers a bucket of fried chicken and 56 years later, it’ s still on the menu.

It seems incomprehensible to me that any fast food chain – when Australia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world – should be selling food by the bucketload.

Anyway, I ordered a Twister meal and as I ate I saw my future – I’d finish the Twister wrap and chips and mash and gravy and three crispy fried wings and I’d feel in a word “disgusted” with myself.

So in a rare moment of forward thinking, I ate one and a half chicken wings, half the Twister, half the mash and gravy, half my chips and left some of the Pepsi max in the can. Then I tipped the rest into the bin, placed my tray on top and left.

But not before I picked up KFC’s ‘Nutritional Information’ booklet.

Just what did KFC have to say about healthy eating?

I was intrigued. They actually have quite a lot of good things to say about healthy eating including the importance of eating foods from the five major food groups, balancing what you eat with how much you eat and the importance of exercise.

As pertains to their own menu they suggest the potato and gravy instead of chips, water instead of a soft drink and if you do have to have chips, try them without any salt. Plus theirs a big picture of a KFC salad (Yes, they have salad!)

Of course, no one who comes into a KFC is going to try the salad, and why would you have water when the meals all come with a soft drink? Yes, the mash and gravy is delicious, but who eats the chicken without the salty chips?

But the most telling line in the brochure is one under the somewhat sinister heading: “The Choice is Yours”

“With the right choices, KFC’s great tasting food can easily fit into a healthy lifestyle as an….


…occasional treat”.

There it is people, in black and white. If you’re eating KFC on a regular basis (as I just watched Charlize Theron do in one of the most insidious examples of product placement in the otherwise excellent film ‘Young Adult’) you’re doing your body a grave disservice.

The same nutrition guide also tells you that the average adult diet is 8700 kilojoules (kJ) per day.

Just how many are in the bucket I wondered?

This is the breakdown excluding the drink and dipping sauces:

Six pieces of original recipe chicken – 5355 kJ
Six crispy strips -2204 kJ
Six kentucky nuggets – 1270 kJ
One maxi popcorn chicken – 3087 kJ
Two large chips -4336 kJ

Total kilojoules in the KFC variety bucket – 16,252 kJ.

Or nearly the full daily food intake requirements of two Australian adults – in one meal.

Or put it another way,  if you wanted to burn those kilojoules off by exercise, KFC’s nutrition guide is extremely helpful in working this one out)

A 3 km jog burns off around 1500 kJ says KFC.

Burning off the kilojoules in one KFC bucket would require that you run 32.5 kilometres, around 8 kilometres each if four of you shared the bucket.

Of course that will just burn up the excess kilojoules (if you can actually find the energy to go running after such a meal) but what it won’t get rid are the mountains of salt you’re putting into your body.

I won’t repeat the calculation in the same detail, but consider that the recommended adult daily intake of salt is one-to-grams a day with a maximum of six (according to an article by Sydney Morning Herald health reporter Louise  Hall in 2009).

A KFC variety bucket contains around 7 grams of salt.

In that same article, Lousie Hall, writes: “There is a strong link between salt, high blood pressure and coronary vascular disease, including heart failure, kidney failure and stroke. Children who eat a high sodium diet are at risk of developing obesity, asthma and high blood pressure.”

And as you consume all these figures (perhaps with your bucket of delicious, salty KFC chicken plus all the accoutrements it comes with) consider this final thought.

In 2011, during the Sydney Ashes test match between Australia and England, KFC “magnanimously” donated $1 from every pink bucket of deep-fried chicken to the breast cancer charity, the McGrath Foundation.

(One more piece of KFC bucket trivia: In 1957, the KFC bucket offered what it considered the “complete” family meal of 14 pieces of chicken, five bread rolls and a pint of gravy for $3.50).