The Dancer Upstairs

Rated 2.0 In a nameless South American country besieged by a terrorist revolution, a police detective (Javier Bardem) is on the trail of a mysterious revolutionary leader known only as Ezequiel. Meanwhile, the detective becomes infatuated with his daughter’s ballet teacher (Laura Morante), who cultivates a teasing—or is it sinister?—air of mystery. Actor John Malkovich’s first film as a director has all the right ingredients to make it a great wallow for the NPR crowd—Latin American turmoil, government oppression and personal honesty vs. institutional corruption. But Nicholas Shakespeare’s script (from his own novel) is limp and cursory, and the plot, a foregone conclusion, lacks suspense. Bardem’s performance is strong, but Malkovich’s direction is leaden and dull; he lets his actors mumble and whisper too much.