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The Whistlers (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 3, 2020


Starring Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Bull, Agusti Vollaronga, Sabin Tambrea, Julieta Szönyi, George Pisterneanu, István Teglas, Cristóbal Pinto, Sergiu Costache and Corneliu Porumboiu.

Screenplay by Corneliu Porumboiu.

Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 97 minutes. Not Rated.

I had not intended to see The Whistlers at the 2019 Philadelphia International Film Festival, but lucky for me, my initial choice was completely sold out. The 2019 Romanian comedy heist film, written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, became one of my favorite films of the festival.

The Whistlers tells the story of corrupt policeman, Cristi (played by Vlad Ivanov). He has been targeted to assist in a mafia plot to release money laundering creep Zsolt from police custody in Bucharest, in order for the mafia to reclaim their missing 30 million dollars.

Cristi is lured into participating by the beautiful Gilda, who will stop at nothing to help free her boyfriend. She asks him to travel to the Canary Islands, where Cristi is to be trained in the elusive whistling language native to the islands, the language that they will use to pull off the release.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Cristi’s precinct had received a tip that had originally put his boss on high alert of the mafia’s money laundering with Zsolt as the orchestrator. We watch Cristi playing both sides of the situation.

With the incredibly disjointed timeline, it took me an embarrassingly long while to realize that it was deliberate and out of order in so many ways – very Pulp Fiction-esque. In my opinion, the timeline was a clever tactic to keep the audience completely off balance.

Another tactic used was levity, like the quick, completely out of place cameo by director Porumboiu asking to do a site check for a future film during a tense moment with the characters in an abandoned warehouse. He shows up like a clueless gringo, not noticing the gun in the greeter’s hand and appears taken aback by the scene (that felt one moment away from the Reservoir Dogs shootout).

On a re-watch of the film with my daughter, I still enjoyed The Whistlers with its many dark and seedy quirks, while my daughter was less than entertained. We both agreed that the cinematography and soundtrack choices were spot on, with great destination filming that made us wish to travel to the Canary Islands. But where I really enjoyed the story line and crazy flow, my daughter felt it was unnecessarily distracting.

I suspect The Whistlers will be a film that I pick up to watch again in the future, to try to catch additional lines that I may have missed in my first two viewings. I will definitely be looking for Porumboiu other films, including highly regarded The Treasure and 12:08 East of Bucharest.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: March 20, 2020.

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