Romanian thriller The Whistlers a film that looks and sounds great, but has a story that’s nothing to sing about

Hey! Catch any cool Romanian crime thrillers lately? They don’t come around very often, which is why I had high hopes for The Whistlers. And while it’s got the “cool” part down, it struggles to provide the thrills.

Cristi, a corrupt detective, gets caught up in a complicated scheme involving corrupt cops, crooks, schemers, and two mattresses stuffed with stolen money. His part in the scheme involves visiting the Canary Islands and learning a whistling language that sounds like innocent birdsong to passers-by. Cristi is supposed to use this whistle-speak to communicate with his crooked colleagues without tipping off the cops, who presumably are listening in on their cell phones. 

The language of Silbo Gomero is a real thing, and we get to learn a bit of it, along with our protagonist. It’s quite a fascinating plot element, much more engaging than having the conspirators use burner phones, or walkie talkies, or other some such. Sadly, it isn’t used much in the story, which is a shame, because there’s not a lot to engage an audience here. All of the characters are so secretive and duplicitous, we have a hard time getting a grip on their real personalities. There’s an undisclosed amount of money at stake, but we don’t know what that money could accomplish for these people, or even who we should root for. 

The Whistlers has great music, pretty locations, good performances, and an original hook with the whistling code, but we’re given very little reason to care about any of it. 

The Whistlers screens Sunday, Sept 29 at Eau Claire Cinemas at 3:15 p.m as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. For tickets please go to

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his website, Facebook, Twitter and through episodes of a program he’s doing with NUTV.