Principal Cast : Analeigh Tipton, Nina Senicar, Marta Gasatini, Jakob Cedergren, Jan Bivjoet, Peter Gadiot, Anita Kravos, Valentin Merlet.
Synopsis: A young woman, a former lover, and another of his exes hook up at an exotic Italian villa for a weekend of sexual discovery.
Compulsion begins with two people screwing. This turns out to be exactly what the film does to the viewer – metaphorically – with this utter waste of celluloid unsurprisingly left sitting on the shelf for two years; the film was shot in 2016 and only wide-released in 2018, for reasons that become obvious soon enough. Casual titillation and the chance to see star Analeigh Tipton’s nude form is about Compulsion’s only drawcard, what with its Basic Instinct-lite tone and hamfisted Eyes Wide Shut excuse for sexually taboo behaviour being so clumsily handled it begs the question as to who not only edited this film, but how did it ever get released? It’s a film that leaves a bad aftertaste as it concludes, the kind of film which makes you want to scrub your eyeballs with over cleaner to be rid of the stench.
Sadie Glass (Tipton), a young female novelist, and an enigmatic woman named Francesca (Marta Gastini), are enticed by an ex-lover (Jakob Cerdegren) to join him at his Italian villa for a weekend celebration being held to honour the release of Sadie’s latest book. Once there, Sadie begins to fear his true intentions as she and Francesca become embroiled in a dangerous game of moral and sexual discovery.
Compulsion is a hugely mediocre film. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the film’s tremulousness at sexual desires flirts moreso with the homogeneous Fifty Shades Of Grey end of the spectrum rather than any compelling, intellectually dense sense of drama. The film’s nasty undertones of abuse and betrayal, the lascivious nature of its depiction of Tipton’s character and the voyeuristic style director Craig Goodwill employs, together with the rancid screenplay Brian Clark, are nonsensical and devoid of emotional context. Sadie’s motivations, her whisper-gasp reflexive sexual nature and the film’s nihilistic distance to the viewer remove much of what might have made the story interesting. Marketing for the film indicated a genetic link to Kubrick’s final film, as tenuous as that might be, and this is about as truthful we get with Compulsion’s glittery aesthetic.
Psycho-sexual thrillers are a decidedly rare beast in Hollywood these days, at least the prominent ones anyway. Basic Instinct set the gold standard for the genre’s modern form, and there’s every reason to benchmark every subsequent film against Paul Verhoeven’s erotic classic. The mix of mystery and murder, the hint of animalistic vengeance in Basic Instinct tapped into the world’s collective fear of sex used as a weapon. Hedonism mixed with the subtle tones of danger make for enticing viewing, but Compulsion’s inherent silliness and slackjawed approach to story set-up, not to mention clumsy foreshadowing of the worst kind, make this elegantly shot film struggle to engage with anybody watching it. Compulsion is, in a word, obvious. Characters are generic, Tipton makes a forlorn and insufficient leading lady, and the film’s decadence and sexually perverse staging lack any kind of resonance or complexity beyond the limited development on the screen.
The most frequent question I had watching this trash was why? Why was it made, for whom was it made, and for what possible reason other than to get Tipton naked for several scenes? There’s no real point to Compulsion at all. My first experience with Analeigh Tipton was her supporting role in Crazy Stupid Love, a film in which she played the underage romantic interest of Steve Carrell’s suddenly-cuckolded father, and in that role she was actually pretty good, if limited in her material. Here, she shoulders the film and her weakness as an actress shows. There’s virtually no scene here where she’s not utterly wooden, bereft of nuance and… well, depth to her ability to inhabit the character. The supporting cast are all equally inept, perhaps a factor more to do with Clark’s screenplay and Goodwill’s direction than what the actors are able to elicit. The film’s solemnified grandiosity is unearned, the fabulous Italian locations far more interesting than the people inhabiting them in this film. Opulence is the order of the day for cinematographer David Ungaro, who gives the film a polish and pizzazz far exceeding the mandate of such a timid story.
Thrillers are, by their very nature, meant to also be thrilling, and Compulsion is anything but. It’s borderline obnoxious, this film, with its hackneyed “horror” elements and sense of distasteful psychological torment within the walls of such a magnificent location – the villa the film occurs in is beautiful indeed – and I lost count of the number of times I checked the “remaining time” on my player. The end couldn’t come fast enough. On a further negative note, Tipton’s decision to get her tits out in this film is particularly egregious, as poor a career decision as Taylor Kitsch’s to make Battleship. The film makes no sense whatsoever, and the focus on sexual violence for pleasure is startlingly off-putting here, a dark, dangerous narrative road for a film to take in today’s cinematic landscape. If you’re doing this kind of film, you need to do it right, and Compulsion doesn’t. Sure, the sex scenes will sell the film, but otherwise, this bastardised Caligula-esque nonsense is repugnant as a piece of art.
Compulsion is a hodgepodge of stupid and a barely comprehensible lethargy of inaction. The story makes no sense, the character aren’t enjoyable or appreciably interesting, and the drab, nigh monochromatic tone the film takes with its visuals and story ruin any sense of sensuality or interesting sexual flavour. Wooden acting and stupid dialogue mar this strange, un-erotic movie to the point it made me chuckle more than anything else, and if that’s the intended effect then it’s a ripper. I doubt that’s what Goodwill and Tipton hoped for though; Compulsion is a trainwreck of boobs and blood and inane “thrills” as a result. You can probably catch the sex scenes on Pornhub and skip the rest, you’ll have a better time.
© 2018, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.