DVD Review: The Whistlers

STUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Corneliu Porumboiu | CAST: Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Sabin Tambrea
RELEASE DATE: July 21, 2020 | PRICE: DVD $9.96
BONUSES: deleted scenes
SPECS: NR | 97 min. | Foreign language crime |  2.35 : 1 widescreen | stereo | Romanian with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 3Dishes.jpg (40×13) | Audio  | Video  | Overall 3Dishes.jpg (40×13)

Along with the Disney animated features Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, The Breakfast Club, To Have and Have Not, The Bridge on the River Kwai and The King and I, The Whistlers can find a place as having one of movie history’s more memorable whistling scenes. Does it belong in the “Cinematic Whistling Hall of Fame?” Not quite.

Here the sounds through pursed lips are used by a group of criminals communicating to avoid wiretapping and surveillance by the authorities—or, maybe, other criminals.

The usually serious Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porunboiu (12:08 South of Bucharest, Police, Adjective) delivers a complex modern day noir tale that moves around—from the Canary Islands to Bucharest to Singapore—and unfolds in English, Spanish and Romanian languages that are tough to decipher.

The story centers on Cristi (Vlad Ivanov, Toni Erdmann), a crooked cop (who looks like a cross between J.K. Simmons and Ed Harris), who is called to join a group of hoods to get the goods on a mob operation that launders millions through mattresses being prepared at a Romanian bedding factory. Cristi finds himself caught between the authorities, led by his ethically challenged boss Magda (Rodica Lazar, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), and the criminals, which include the beautiful and duplicitous Gilda (Catrinel Marlon, Tale of Tales) and the mattress factory owner Szolt (Sabin Tambrea, Babylon Berlin). Many other characters weave in and out of the proceedings—including another group of thugs–as double crosses and duplicitous posturing take place throughout the picture.

There’s an “anything goes” feel to The Whistlers, and while the whistling part—done through lots of practice, by  sticking a thumb in the mouth–is intriguing, it doesn’t have a lot to do with the rest of what’s going on in the film. (Nor will it make Jiminy Cricket jealous.) An additional side of amusement can be found in some of the inside movie references that are sprinkled throughout.

Good response greeted the movie at 2019’s Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals, and The Whistlers straddles the line between art film and mainstream crime outing. There are gaps left frustratingly unresolved in the story, but there may be enough here to welcome parties interested in offbeat thrillers.

Buy or Rent The Whistlers

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.