This film was previously reviewed in May 2019 as part of our Cannes Film Festival coverage.

Codes and communication are vital parts of any crime film. After all, it’s much easier to double-cross your enemies if they don’t speak the same language as you. The Whistlers takes that idea to absurd levels to create a fun, slick thriller.

Detective Cristi (Vlad Ivanov, the spitting image of Michael Keaton) is a man caught between masters, juggling his police duties with underworld allegiances to organised crime. It’s a familiar idea but Porumboiu balances the scales delicately, revealing just enough of each character’s motivations and betrayals to keep the viewer on their toes.

The Whistlers mostly has the form and style of a glossy high-end TV show, but it’s elevated to something more worthwhile thanks to the cheeky central idea. Watching Ivanov whistle his way through the learning of a ridiculous (and surely impossible) language is an absurd delight and the comedy continues elsewhere too.

Writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu’s script plays with familiar crime tropes to great effect, though his direction also indulges in a lot of the more disappointing stereotypes of the genre such as its treatment of female characters. Despite this, Catrinel Marlon is great in the lead female role, going toe to toe with the men of the film in a spirited performance that provides much of the energy.

Porumboiu directs the action scenes with force and elegance, alongside bruising sound editing from Christian Holm and vivid photography from Tudor Mircea. It may be easy to see where the plot is going but its twists and turns are sharply executed. The ensemble all bring distinct personalities to their characters, though some more depth and motivation within the script would’ve been welcome.

The Whistlers is a fresh spin on the crime thriller though it never quite brings enough to the table to be more than a fun oddity.


Available to watch on: Curzon Home


CAST: Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Agustí Villaronga

DIRECTOR: Corneliu Porumboiu

WRITER: Corneliu Porumboiu

SYNOPSIS: A policeman is intent on freeing a crooked businessman from a prison on Gomera, an island in the Canaries. However, he must first learn the difficult local dialect, a language which includes hissing and spitting.