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Whistleblower, The (2019)
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by Jay Seaver

"Would be more of a fun little action movie if it were a bit littler."
3 stars

"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[/I 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.

Even the last gambit of the film has a certain amount of fun to it, although it also requires a lot of participation by people who, when last the audience saw them, seemed like they would be much more likely to tell Mark to go to hell than help out. It's as though she's a little over-eager to get to the fun stuff, something seen throughout the movie - Mark is established as an everyman sort from the start, complete with a line about how calling him by the name of a Chow Yun-fat character was kind of ironic because he'd been kind of a wimpy kid, but he seldom misses a step in a crisis. Siliang occasionally does, but mostly because it lets them make a joke or two about how it's tough for someone who has spent the last decade or so living in the lap of luxury to blend in at a Chinatown restaurant. The adventure goes down easy, but it sometimes feels like Xue is taking short cuts to get there.

It's an amiable enough cast, though, with Lei Jiayin generally able to sell himself as a family man in over his head even after he's somehow managed to get through something crazy and Tang Wei fairly adept at making Siliang someone the audience likes even if she does seem like kind of an oblivious rich lady at times, earnest enough to smother the script's need to question her motivations (for better or worse). Similarly, Qi Xi gets more out of Mark's wife Judy than she's got any right to; the movie tends to stick Judy in a cruddy place where she's been done wrong but pushing against it puts her in opposition to Mark, and it's a bit of a victory that she's often able to coax a laugh out of her scenes.

There are moments of swagger and lunacy in "The Whistleblower", enough that it can't entirely wear out its welcome or fall apart due to the bits that don't work. That's not the best you can hope for with this sort of movie, but it's certainly nice that a movie that could have been too serious to let cars getting smashed up be fun can actually let its audience sit back and relax instead.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=33425&reviewer=371
originally posted: 12/08/19 18:46:23
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User Comments

12/09/19 Anon Yet another example of how state control over culture destroys creativity and honesty! 3 stars
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  06-Dec-2019 (15)

  12-Dec-2019 (M)

Directed by
  Xiaolu Xue

Written by
  Xiaolu Xue

  Jiayin Lei
  Wei Tang
  Xi Qi
  John Batchelor
  Ce Wang

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