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By Anthony Miele | May 3, 2003

A South American country is once again under siege with the declaration of martial law probable. An elusive, as well as ruthless revolutionary named “Ezequiel” is killing public officials by day, and hanging dogs in the streets by night. Javier Bardem stars, in the feature film directorial debut of John Malkovich, as a former lawyer turned policeman in “The Dancer Upstairs”.
Bardem validates the Oscar kudos of yesteryear with his understated portrayal of investigator Augustin Rejas. For it is with his suggestive glances and overall quiet delivery that the film relies on numerous occasions, especially during scenes that neither propel nor compel.
Humorous yet subtle characters aid Malkovich in creating a film that is engaging and entertaining, while at the same time lumbering during long stretches. This is clearly the director’s esoteric personality making its presence known.
Malkovich has already proven that he can be one of the best and most impassioned actors in film today and with “Dancer” he validates his command behind the camera as well. While the film is perplexing in spots, it could use a trim in the length department and there is far too much dialogue that is missed simply because the actors are not speaking in their native tongues, it does succeed in holding the interest of the audience, even through moments of utter confusion and suicidal boredom.

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