“Forget what I did in Bucharest. That was just for the security cameras.”
That bravura line, delivered by the very attractive Catrinel Marlon (as Gilda) kick-starts the engine of this spy thriller about Cristi (Vlad Ivanov, Snowpiercer, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days), a man high up in the Romanian police who’s being recruited by a gang to help arrange a jailbreak. Who are they? Who are they breaking out? Are they the bad guys, or is the real bad guy the head of the Romanian police? Is Cristi a bad guy?
Damned if I know.
This is the kind of moody, somewhat murky crime film that has nothing but antiheroes in a quasi-police-state setting (I have no idea if Romania is but you sort of suspect a movie about a police state can’t actually be made in a police state) and dares you to care about the proceedings. As a heist movie, it has the curious gimmick of Cristi being taken to the Canary Islands to learn the whistling language of the Guanches. This will allow the team to coordinate in a way without the authorities knowing.
We end up kind of liking Cristi: At first because he seems to be the lone man against the power of the state, and then later because he seems to have some kind of compass. Though he’s not an honest cop—honest cops don’t survive—his sins are venial compared to those of his boss and the cutthroats who have roped him into this scheme. He’s enamored of Gilda—because of course—and although she discourages him (apart from that thing in Bucharest), his affection for her (and the subsequent decent actions he takes) gives you something to hang on to at the movie’s climax where a bunch of people kill a bunch of other people, and you mostly think, “Well, good.”
You can sometimes get a sense from the tone of the film how it’s going to end up, and I was concerned we were going to go through the whole journey with, “And then they all died. Because real, man.” But the ending is satisfying and puts a cap on the whole premise of the film, so I liked it. The Boy also liked it.
We both agreed that it wasn’t quite the great film the critics had made it out to be.
As a side note, the film has a sex scene, and I was a little shocked by that, which brought to mind how things had changed over the decades. It’s interesting how uncommon that has become in films where—all kidding aside—the nekkidity is not absolutely essential to the plot, as Joe Bob Briggs would say. In this case, it really was.