Monday, December 09, 2019

The Whistleblower

Weird trailer for this one - on the one hand, all the dialogue in it was in English, but all the graphics were Chinese, so I'm not sure which audience it was aimed at, which is kind of a hazard with this sort of Chinese-Australian co-production. I think it's probably better than most of these Chinese movies made for "the world market", with the stuff a thriller has to compromise on to get past the Chinese censor board less obvious than usual, the trip to Africa not as cringe-worthy as it often is, and the Aussie cast better than they usually get. That's a lot of "well, it could be worse" but it's a genre film that's got to please several different audiences. It's tough.

I must admit, I really liked seeing it set specifically in Melbourne; I visited there a few years ago and had a good time with "hey, I've been there!" I was kind of weirdly disappointed to see that the gorgeous place they visited toward the start, the 12 Apostles, was closer to Melbourne than any other city; I'm kind of plotting another visit for cold-weather months, but was planning to go to another city, so it will be a while before I get to see that spot in person.

One kind of interesting thing if you stay through the end credits is that the fancy resort they visit there is all CGI in the long shots, and the credits mention that there is no plan for developing that area of natural beauty in such a manner. Which is nice, but it's kind of a weird thing to make up - if it's important enough to note, why not put them at a spot that does have rich-person resorts with that kind of view (and which would likely be happy for some product placement)? Did they just assume any place like that would be built up and not realize it wouldn't be until they started looking for locations?

And for one last silly thing, there's a character named "Tom Baker" in the movie, and when Mark does an internet search on him, the first five pages of results are not all about Doctor Who. That messes with my suspension of disbelief!

Chui shao ren (The Whistleblower)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 7 December 2019 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, DCP)

The Whistleblower is a competent enough little thriller that loses a bit of goodwill in the last act when it just won't end, setting up a finale that feels tacked on. It's not bad so much as it's a lot of work the movie doesn't need to do just when one's bladder is about to complain. The film's globe-trotting justifies the scale somewhat, but there's probably a great 95-minute movie in here somewhere.

It does quickly have one pondering a vacation to Australia to visit the 12 Apostles on the southern coast, where Mark Ma Ke (Lei Jiayin) of Grand Power Energy Corporation is hosting a delegation from the Han Mei group in Lvhan, China. Executive James Harrison has pulled Mark in because the company's other Chinese senior manager, Peter Hu (Wang Ce) is in Africa, managing humanitarian aid after a massive earthquake near a GPEC facility. Mark is surprised to see that one of the executives is his old girlfriend Zhou Siliang (Tang Wei), and shocked when the plane carrying the delegation the next morning crashes into the ocean with no apparent survivors. Except, Siliang does show up alive, and Peter dead, and it soon becomes clear that there's more to this than Siliang seizing a chance to leave her husband or Peter mis-administering his insulin.

At its best, The Whistleblower is fairly simple and efficient. Once things start going wrong for Mark and Siliang, filmmaker Xue Xiaolu doesn't tend to let a lot of grass grow under their feet, with goons popping up to try and knock Siliang off just about as soon as she shows her face in Melbourne and seldom enough of a lull after that to feel like either Xue or her film's villains are wasting any time. The opening has set the stakes high enough that what they're investigating never feels like small potatoes, and Xue has a fondness for flipping cars into the air in slow motion that shows that name-dropping characters from (I think) A Better Tomorrow is not the end of the director's John Woo influence. Xue is not particularly known for action - her debut feature starred Jet Li but was a small domestic drama - but she sets it up well and doesn't take it for granted, with Melburnians looking more alarmed at people suddenly opening fire in the middle of a train station than is the norm.

Full review at EFilmCritic

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