Sumeet Bal
September 26, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

John Malkovich has set himself apart, again, in a discriminating directorial debut. Placed in an unnamed Latin American country, the thriller follows a frustrated lawyer — turned — virtuous police captain (the smoldering Bardem) who must disarm a rebel faction before it tears his country apart. Simultaneously, the crime fighter tries to combat his attraction to his daughter’s elusive ballet teacher (Morante). It’s the intricate plot — which quietly examines a torn man’s rectitude — and Bardem’s vibrant performance that leave an indelible mark. EXTRAS Skip the long-winded commentary from Bardem and Malkovich: The film’s mysteries are explored in an engaging featurette with Malkovich, Bardem, and screenwriter Nicholas Shakespeare.

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