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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 Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

In THE DANCER UPSTAIRS, director John Malkovich does a slow-motion Costa-Gavras (Z). An intriguing political drama that gets murkier by the minute, it is set in the capital of an unnamed South American country.

The low energy production stars Oscar nominee Javier Bardem (BEFORE NIGHT FALLS) as Captain Rejas, a police detective on the trail of a mysterious revolutionary known only as Ezequiel. Ezequiel sees himself as the fourth Communist prophet after Marx, Lenin and Mao.

When Ezequiel's terrorist followers aren't slaughtering government and military officials, they busy themselves with signage. All over town, they hang dead dogs with signs attached. Along with a "Long Live President Ezequiel!" the signs include a mish-mash of bizarre political slogans: "When I hear the word 'culture,' I reach for my pistol," and "Guns make us powerful. Butter will only make us fat."

Since Captain Rejas and his team are having no luck in tracking down the terrorists, the country's president declares martial law. The longer the movie goes on, the slower it gets, and the more it is obvious that its sympathies lie with the terrorists, subtlety painting them as idealistic warriors against the oppressive government.

The best part of the movie is the haunting music by Alberto Iglesias and Pedro Malgheas. Individual orchestral instruments wail at each other soulfully.

With better pacing and more cutting, THE DANCER UPSTAIRS could have been more than just sporadically fascinating. But, as released, watching it will wear you out like eye fatigue from dirty eyeglasses.

THE DANCER UPSTAIRS runs way too long at 2:09. It is rated R "for strong violence, and for language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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