All That Traffic Will Allow
“Stoolpigeons,” “stoolies,” “rats,” “squealers,” “finks” or “informers” are long a staple of crime or political movies. As “whistleblowers”-- the term from 1970 -- they have acquired new meaning in a world wary of its business, political and military leaders. After The Insider, it is natural that the latest “inspired by actual events” should go back to the most direct title of The Whistleblower.
In her first go-round on multinational corruption in the underdeveloped world since The Constant Gardener, Rachel Weisz is Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska policewoman whose workaholic dedication costs her home, husband and children. Attempting to regroup and recoup, Kathy jumps at a tax-free hundred grand for half-a-year’s work as a United Nations peacekeeper in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Celluloid ladies who expose the truth generally fare better physically than male counterparts who are beaten or killed, though Karen Silkwood could not be saved from her real fate, and Weisz’ CG Tessa is killed off early and thereafter only flashback-alive. Often harassed, single or separated mothers, Norma Rae Webster, Erin Brokovich and Kathy Bolkovac may be cursed out and menaced, but they find secondary backers and end on their feet even as victory is conditional.
Parallel to this naïve Midwesterner’s personal story but soon intersecting with and directing it, is that of Raya Kochan (Roxana Condurache), who, with friend Luba Palich (Paula Schramm) and like thousands of other women and children in poor countries, is tricked or bought into the worldwide exploitation of human beings for sex. The two teens from Kiev are set up by Raya’s uncle Roman (Alin Panc), to wind up cowed and chained during the day to serve up sexual favors nights in the Florida bar outside ravaged, volatile Sarajevo.
Similar to much of American presence around the globe, the uniformed UN monitors in the former Yugoslavia are actually “contracted,” in effect employees with limited powers of a U.K.-based firm, Democra. First-time director Larysa Kondracki bases her cowritten script on Bolkovac’s story, but it reads much like traditional oft-used plotting.
The new cop on the block easily finds out about the importation of sex slaves, in this case from former Soviet bloc nations. She becomes involved on a personal level -- remember, she is a mother albeit a “failed” one -- and sickened by fellow peacekeepers’ patronage of the brothel-bars, the protection money paid to local law enforcement, and involvement at high diplomatic levels in this lucrative business of sex trafficking across international borders.
Scouting the bars and meager women’s shelters, she gains little beyond suspicion and ostracism from her coworker peers. Those who might be of help, such as the Global Displacement Agency’s Laura Leviani (Monica Bellucci), are handcuffed by protocol; Women’s Rights and Gender Unit head Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) can do no more than appear sage and offer secret encouragement and contacts like her Internal Affairs friend Peter Ward (David Strathairn); and good local cop Jan Van Der Velde (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) has his hands full just keeping Kathy in one piece.
The Florida dungeon is more jumbled than dank; even with a manipulated seconds’ doubt about Ward, the cardboard characters have no shadings between good and nasty; and Weisz’ face is often unsuccessfully framed to indicate thought or something. The heroine does get her fair say on BBC News and, of course, “Yes, I would [do it again], no doubt about it,” but she is not engaging. Seeking safety, Frank Serpico and Kathryn Bolkovac both settled in Europe. Lumet’s New York City plainclothesman did help heads to roll; forty years later, a world beyond Wikileaks will probably not be surprised or stirred by by-the-numbers The Whistleblower.
(Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and rated “R” for disturbing violent content including a brutal sexual assault, graphic nudity and language.)