The Dancer Upstairs (8)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 In John Malkovich’s directorial debut, police captain Rejas (Javier Bardem) is after a secretive revolutionary, known as Ezequiel (Malkovich), who is causing random acts of violence and murder throughout an unnamed Latin American country.  Rejas is a seemingly phlegmatic head of a police squad assigned the task of finding Ezequiel.  Despite a wife and a daughter, he gets the hots for his daughter’s mysterious ballet teacher, Yolanda (Laura Morante), which leads to complications for Rejas.  Rejas and his boss, who gives him a free rein to look for Ezequiel, are under pressure from the Presidente’s aide to find Ezequiel and turn him in quietly so he can be quickly eliminated.  When Rejas doesn’t produce quick results, conflict arises between him and his boss, and the Presidente’s people.

 One of the ladies accompanying me to the film leaned over when Bardem, who reminded me of Raul Julia, first appeared on the screen and whispered, “That’s a cute guy.” Another said, "Javier Bardem is much more than just 'a cute guy' or mere visual candy ... he oozes sensuality, controlled intensity, intelligence and purpose ---  a mighty powerful combo!" So I guess women will like this a lot because he’s onscreen almost the entire film.  

 Although the film starts deliberately and proceeds at a leisurely speed, the tension slowly builds throughout its two hour eight minute running time.  It held my interest because I was never quite sure where it was heading. I rate it an 8, but it would have been a 9 but for an unnecessary final few minutes of Directorial Conceit that left me walking out of the theater less enthralled than I would have been had the movie ended a few minutes earlier.

 May 10, 2003

 The End