The Whistlers

I admit to being flummoxed by this one! It has had rave reviews and plaudits from other critics but I spent the whole film wondering what on earth was going on.

Billed as a crime-thriller, set in Romania and the Canaries, the story revolves round a corrupt copper, Christi, the deadpan Vlad Ivanov, organising the escape of Zsolt, a gang leader, from a Romanian prison because he is the only person who knows where some Euros 30 million of drug money is stashed.

The scenes flit between Grand Canaria and Bucharest, with few visual clues as to where is where. We open with Cristi being driven at break-neck speed round mountain roads – obviously the Canaries – and being reunited with a femme fatale named Gilda (Catrinel Marlon). Flashback to Bucharest and a rendezvous where the only way to avoid the bugs in her apartment is to have passionate sex. Naked, Gilda has one of the best backs I have ever seen, spine sculpted and curvaceous. No wonder the gang boss has marked her as his own. Careful Cristi…

For some obscure reason – maybe it’s those darn bugs again – the only way the gang will be able to communicate in Romania is via the ancient whistling language of the Canaries, known as Silbo Gomero. Poor Cristi has to learn this before he is allowed back to Bucharest. It is extremely hard.  Apparently Catrinel Marlon had such difficulty with it that she had to abandon a fashion shoot as it damaged her lips.

The Romanian scenes are suitably dark, a tribute to director Corneliu Porumbolu’s poke at the film noir genre, though Magda (Rodica Lazar) the chief of police is also incredibly glamorous and adds a ray of light. It might explain why we are never quite sure whose side Cristi is really on. She certainly seems to be calling all the shots; you might call her a ball-breaker. 

The difficulty in following the plot is compounded by the subtitles. Nevertheless Porumbolu is obviously enjoying himself with his arty filmography and use of film-set for one of the stake-outs. To me it was all a bit of style over substance, the joke being at the audience’s expense. When the film ends it is clear that the strapline ‘loyalty is not their language’ is more than apt. I was not alone is asking ‘what was that all about?’ as the credits rolled.

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