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The Dancer Upstairs

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Dancer Upstairs

Starring: Javier Bardem, Laura Morante
Director: John Malkovich
Rated: R
RunTime: 133 Minutes
Release Date: May 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Juan Diego Botto, Elvira Minguez, Alexandra Lencastre, Oliver Cotton, Luis Miguel Cintra, Javier Manrique, Abel Folk, Natalia Dicenta

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

John Malkovich makes his directorial debut with this political melodrama/love story adapted by Nicholas Shakespeare from his own novel which fictionalized the 12-year chase and eventual capture of Abimael Guzman, the charismatic leader of Peru's violent Shining Path terrorists.

Set in the recent past in an unnamed South American country, the film stars Spanish actor Javier Bardem (Oscar-nominated for "Before Night Falls") as Augustin Rejas, a highly principled lawyer-turned-police detective who - with his sidekick Sucre (Juan Diego Botto) - is after a mysterious revolutionary responsible for political assassinations, car bombings, gruesome massacres and hanging dogs from light poles. Calling himself Ezequiel (Abel Folk), this criminal believes he's the next Communist prophet after Marx, Lenin and Mao. Like his predecessors, Ezequiel's heavily into bizarre political slogans, like "When I hear the word 'culture,' I reach for my pistol" and "Guns make us powerful. Butter will only make us fat." And as the guerrilla warfare escalates, the president is ready to declare martial law in the next two weeks.

In the midst of this revolution and perhaps because of his own shaky marriage (his wife is into "The Bridges of Madison County" with her book group), Rejas finds temporary distraction in his 10 year-old daughter's sensual ballet teacher, Yolanda (Italian actress Laura Morante).

Malkovich obviously has been influenced by Costa-Gavras' "State of Siege," but he is unable to grasp that director's use of tension. Instead, the plot is elusive and the slow pace plods despite Jose Luis Alcaine's photography and the music of Alberto Iglesias and Pedro Malgheas. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Dancer Upstairs" is a glum, grim 6. It's a murky manhunt.

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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