The Dancer


dir. Malkovich

Opens Fri May 9

Various Theaters

Set in an unnamed Latin American country, The Dancer Upstairs attempts to be a timeless story of a good cop stuck in a bad system, set against a background of guerrilla terrorism and beautiful cinematography. Adapted from the book of the same name by Bruce Chatwin biographer Nicholas Shakespeare, the film focuses on Agustin Rejas (Javier Bardem), said good cop, who is investigating a spiraling terrorist group headed by Ezequiel, a crazed philosopher who has no qualms using small children as suicide bombers. As the movie slowly unfolds (key word: slowly), it becomes clear that the government Rejas works for is only slightly less cracked than the kamikaze force that attempts to overthrow it. As he works under the pressure of capturing Ezequiel before it's too late, Rejas finds refuge in an affair with his daughter's ballet instructor, an awkward romance that's intensified as rapidly as it's introduced.

With its sweeping images of foreign lands, and its dramatic relevance to past and present political situations--Ezequiel's group is modeled after Peru's Shining Path--The Dancer Upstairs is the kind of movie you want to like because of its high ambition. But unfortunately, after all the buildup, the loose ends are tied too quickly, and Rejas' final sacrifice is too massive to be reconciled with the plot leading up to it.