While Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich gave us the chance to (literally) get inside the quirky thesp's head, The Dancer Upstairs offers the first opportunity to see through his eyes. Yes, this is Malkovich's megaphone debut.
Based on a novel by Nicholas Shakespeare (no relation) - which in turn was inspired by Peru's Shining Path guerrillas - this political drama is set in a Latin American Never-Never Land. The focus is Rejas (Javier Bardem), an idealistic cop trying to catch a Communist guerrilla leader before he can topple the nation's fragile government.
Bardem delivers a simmering performance to rank alongside his Oscar-nommed turn in Before Night Falls, but the rest of the movie never matches up. Sure, Malkovich proves he has an eye for a striking visual, but the storyline shuffles where it should stride. Even worse, The Dancer Upstairs is guilty of wading into the murky waters of Latin American politics, only to settle for a polite paddle. If you're going to jump in, at least make a splash.