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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 6, 2016

Whistleblower Review: Good Acting From Nora And Cherry Pie But It Deserves A Better Ending

IN A COUNTRY like ours where corruption is a way of life and where it’s more the rule than the exception, “Whistleblower” is like a breath of fresh air as it exposes the anomalous shenanigans of our ruthlessly dishonest government officials. It has a disclaimer at the start of the movie that the story is fictitious, but it’s so easy to see that the situations portrayed here are inspired by Janet Napoles, the so-called Pork Barrel Queen.

The movie starts with the NBI rescuing Nora Aunor as Zeny Roblado after she was imprisoned (just like Benhur Luy in real life) by her own employer, Cherry Pie Picache as Lorna Valera, the scammer who ruthlessly connives with crooked politicians to rob our country’s coffers. From there, the story is told in flashbacks, in black and white. Nora is a simple, shy but very efficient accountant who works for a businesswoman, Liza Lorena, who introduces her to Cherry Pie who then quickly pirates her.

In no time at all, Nora becomes the trusted administrator of Cherry Pie in her illegal transactions, notably with Laurice Guillen, who is splendid as a conscience-less public official. When Laurice and another rogue politician, Leo Rialp, get tired of Cherry Pie, they try to entice Nora to be their new Scam Queen who channels the pork barrel of elected officials into fake Non-Governmental Organization (NGO’s). Nora is already dissatisfied with Cherry Pie as she’s asking for a raise but only a measly amount was given to her when Cherry Pie is earning billions from her nefarious activities.

The movie’s lead characters are Nora and Cherry Pie, with Angelica Panganiban in a lesser role as the journalist who writes Nora’s story. What’s nice about Nora and Cherry Pie’s characters is that they’re quite well written. Nora has a mother (Anita Linda) and son (Carlo Aquino) to protect while Cherry Pie has a nuisance of a parasitic husband (Allan Paule) and a teenage daughter (Lauren Young) who rely on her.

Between the two, Cherry Pie has the flashier role as the scam queen who claims “hawak ko sa leeg ang gobierno” and can be quite violent when displeased by the people working for her. As such, it would appear that she gives the more compelling, colorful performance. But we really enjoyed Nora’s very controlled, very muted interpretation of her role here, which is reminiscent of her similar role in “Hustisya”, where she plays Rosanna Roces’ most trusted confidante who later replaces Osang as the new scam queen. Ate Guy’s performance here is more touching and heartfelt than her acting in her recent films like “Kuwento ni Mabuti”, “Thy Womb”, “Taklub” or “Dementia”.

“Whistleblower” is one of the better works of Director Adolf Alix Jr. Previous to this, his only other movie we got to appreciate was “Muli” with Sid Lucero. At only an hour and a half, “Whistleblower” is mercifully fast paced. But we feel that the last sequences are quite rushed and the movie deserves a more satisfying ending. In real life, we all know that the Napoles case is dragging in our courts, which is typical of our sluggish justice system. In the movie, Cherry Pie is quickly given the bloody comeuppance she deserves, so you know the movie is not that realistic.

Also, after it’s shown in the newspapers that Nora finally revealed everything she knows to Angelica and it all comes out in the headlines, the movie suddenly ends. Local viewers will not at all be contented with this kind of hasty conclusion. They will want to see a more crowd-pleasing epilogue or coda where Nora’s character is at least shown happily reunited with her loved ones who have been in hiding since her involvement in the political scandal became public.

The movie is promoted as a political thriller but it lacks the punch and impact of our favorite movies of the said genre, like “Z” by Costa-Gavras (the best as it indicts an entire political system), “The Manchurian Candidate”, “In the Line of Fire”, “Full Disclosure”, “Fail Safe” or “Absolute Power” where you are really pushed to the edge of your seat. These movies do not have a “bitin” ending like “Whistleblower”, which could have also ended in a more courageous, pleasing manner had it shown that some of the corrupt politicians (Lloyd Samartino, for instance, who even blatantly uses the rosary for his own selfish motives) were arrested, as we all know anyway that some senators were actually incarcerated in real life.