The Dancer Upstairs (2002)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller, Crime  |  23 May 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 5,376 users   Metascore: 64/100
Reviews: 71 user | 89 critic | 40 from

A police detective in a South American country is dedicated to hunting down a revolutionary guerilla leader.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Agustín Rejas
Alexandra Lencastre ...
Sylvina Rejas
Luís Miguel Cintra ...
Javier Manrique ...
Abel Folk ...
Ezequiel / Durán
Marie-Anne Berganza ...
Lucas Rodríguez ...
Xabier Elorriaga ...
Ramiro Jiménez ...
Sergeant Pisac


The story of Detective Agustin Rejas, a man clinging to the hope of an impossible love in an impossible world. Tracking Ezequiel, a delusional anarchist who incites the downtrodden masses to join in his brutal revolution against the fascist government in their unnamed Latin American country, Rejas finds solace in his sense of self-respect and the joy that his daughter and wife bring him. Then he meets Yolanda--his daughter's soulfully beautiful ballet teacher--a woman who sparks his long-forgotten passions and represents all that is good and all that is corrupt in their troubled country. But she, who appears to be a shelter from the storm, may in actuality be the storm's eye. Ultimately, as the revolution intensifies and the net closes around hunter and hunted alike, the dancer's truth will prove as elusive as the revolutionary's cause and the detective's peace. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


An honest man caught in a world of intrigue, power and passion.


Drama | Thriller | Crime

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, and for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

23 May 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sendero de sangre  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£61,622 (UK) (6 December 2002)


$2,374,732 (USA) (15 August 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The story is inspired by the Maoist insurgency in Peru known as the Shining Path. Its leader Abimael Guzmán, who was known by the nom de guerre President Gonzalo, was captured in an apartment above a ballet studio in the capital Lima in 1992. The ballet teacher Yolanda was based on Maritza Garrido Lecca, the woman in whose apartment Guzmán was found. Bardem's character was inspired by Benedicto Jimenez and General Antonio Ketin Vidal, the leading figures responsible for Guzmán's capture. See more »


Throughout the film, Ezequiel also denounces Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping. Deng ruled China from 1976 to 1989. However, when Det. Lt. Agustín Rejas browses through several women's magazines such as Glamour, he encounters "recent" pictures of models such as Josie Maran and Gisele Bündchen. Maran didn't start her modeling career until 1990, a year after Deng left office. See more »


[Rejas and Sucre are looking at a dead dog hanging from a lamp-post, with dynamite stuck down its throat]
Sucre: What sort of a person would do that?
Agustín Rejas: I don't know, but I wouldn't entirely rule out a cat-lover.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The producers would like to thank ... the residents of Narcisos Street ... See more »


References Car Wash (1976) See more »


Pearl Curtain in the Moon
Written by Liping Wang (as Wang Liping) and Wu Ming Xiao Zi
(SSS 034CD /17; Sonoton Creative Sound Solutions)
© Sonoton Music GmbH & Co. KG
Authorized by Multimusic, S.L.
See more »

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User Reviews

You must be able to dance in the political world!
10 June 2004 | by (Metairie, LA) – See all my reviews

I would expect a movie directed by John Malkovich to be intense and specific. The Dancer Upstairs is that. It is a political movie that while popular in Europe, does not tend to draw well in the United States. Too bad.

The story tells the tale of a lawyer who has left the law looking for a better system. I don't know that becoming a police detective is that much better, but it serves the story. The story is set in a nameless Latin American country -- which also suits the story line.

Detective Lt. Agustín Rejas (Javier Bardem) has left a law firm where he was a junior partner, to join law enforcement -- with a conscious. He can give a break to a traveler whose papers are not quite right and he can be relentless in his pursuit of a terrorist.

Rejas has been victimized by the politics of his country. His father lost his coffee farm to the soldiers. His view of the judicial system has seen a rapist become president of the country. But still, Rejas finds joy in his beautiful dancer daughter and his wife -- who has a political mission of her own. Then he meets the free spirited dance instructor for his daughter.

Rejas works in a corrupt society where the fiscal corruption goes hand in hand with the moral and political corruption. The central government is all too ready to suspend civil rights and to put military law into effect. The military killing innocent people is fine as long as it suits the party.

Rejas attempts to live the just life and must deal with the corruption the best he can. This conflict is the heart of the movie. As he says, he has feelings about his father losing his farm and he is the Gary Cooper type.

Javier Bardem is excellent in the pivotal role. Juan Diego Botto does a very credible job as Detective Sgt. Sucre. Laura Morante is intoxicating as dance instructor focal point of the story.

I give this move a 9 for great story and suspense, excellent direction and fine acting. There is no sex and very brief nudity. The violence does tend to be horrific and there are depictions of cruelty to animals -- both central to the plot. This is far less than the typical Jason or Chainsaw movies gore.

I consider this an excellent direction debut for John Malkovich and look forward to his next feature film effort. It feels like Malkovich will fill a role similar to Robert Redford in films he has directed.

28 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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