USA 2012. Dir: Craig Zobel. Scr: Craig Zobel
The chirpy but corporate manageress of a fast-food outlet receives a phone call, apparently from the police, informing her that a young, female employee has been under surveillance and has been reported stealing money from a customer. Not even a screen-filling disclaimer in the first few seconds that the film is based on real-life events excuses the misguided, voyeuristic, exploitative, mean-spirited, people-loathing horror that follows as the “investigation” proceeds.
To get under the psychological skin of obedience to authority in the face of questionable acts might have made for interesting cinema and the story itself would raise an eyebrow, as The Imposter did. But what we see here is a version of Hostel: the protracted humiliation of a young woman dramatised linearly, literally and very deliberately. And the heavy-handedness doesn’t stop with the serial strip-searching of the girl under suspicion: characters are either good or bad (mostly bad) and, of course, corporate America is shallow and ridiculous – “You’re fucked without bacon, I can tell you that”. A film about ugliness and moral weakness, made in a way that is ugly and both intellectually and morally weak.