VIFF Review: ‘The Whistlers’ convoluted plot keeps it from engaging.

Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a cop. You won’t know that immediately, but you’ll know it soon enough. He’s not a good cop. In fact, he’s as dirty as they come. He’s arrived on La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, to learn an aboriginal whistling language to communicate right under the noses of the Romanian police.

I’m not going to go into the actual plot here because, as a slick neo-noir film, the plot has so many twists and turns that telling you anything might be giving something away. Suffice to say that there is Christi, and there is a femme fatale (Catrinel Marlon as Gilda), and there is a whole slew of bad people on either side of the law.

There’s just one problem: It’s kind of boring.

The setup is all there. Bad people playing off bad people. Compromises and double-crosses​. Some great performances. A weird hook. This movie should be exactly my thing, but I did not connect at all.

There are two things at play here, and the first is simply that the amount of time that the story spends on the setup of Cristi learning the new language is a little overlong. Second, Vlad Ivanov has exactly the right demeanour for the part, but there needed to be some assumed progress at some point.

Second, as the story is told in discrete chapters which play out of linear sequence, a conceit that once again I would normally like only serves to distance you from what’s going on as more and more people are brought into the plot, from Cristi’s boss (also corrupt!) Magda to his mom.

Also, just for clarities sake, the ancient aboriginal whistling language? That’s super weird, but it kind of works once the plot is actually moving.

Ivanov is a solid actor (you probably last saw him in Snowpiercer), as is Catrinel Marlon and the femme fatale Gilda, both trying to keep their heads above water and make it out of the plot alive. They’re not enough on their own to make the whole film entertaining though, as great as they are, it’s still a bit of a slog.


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