Nine Queens
(Nueve Reinas)

Nine Queens (Nueve Reinas)
Made in: Argentina
Language: Spanish
Director: Fabian Bielinsky
Starring: Gastón Pauls, Ricardo Darín, Leticia Brédice, Ignasi Abadal, Oscar Nuñez
Year: 2000

Synopsis: Innocent-looking Juan (Gastón Pauls) and hardened, cunning Marcos (Ricardo Darín) are two con men operating in Buenos Aires who, by chance, cross paths one morning. Forming a tentative partnership, Marcos and Juan stumble upon a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a huge score.

The plan involves selling an expertly set of forged stamps called The Nine Queens to a soon-to-be-deported Spanish businessman/stamp enthusiast, Vidal Gandolfo (Ignasi Abadal).

Gandolfo happens to be staying at a luxury hotel where Marcos' estranged sister Valería (Leticia Brédice) is employed, and with whom Marcos is currently involved in a bitter legal dispute over an inheritance.

After successfully negotiating a price for the stamps, the straightforward plan begins going awry as third parties get involved and unexpected challenges arise. Marcos and Juan find that things are not what they seem and no one is to be trusted as the adventure becomes more convoluted.

Is it every con man for himself or is it all just a big joke?

The Good: The movie won several prominent awards at well-known festivals, such as the Biarritz International Festival of Latin America, the Bogota Film Festival, and the Lima Latin American Film Festival among others.

Director Fabian Bielinsky creates a smart, energetic crime movie that, whether intentional or not, also works as a commentary on Argentina's economic crisis which was taking place when the film was released.

The storyline is solid, and the unexpected plot twists are highly entertaining. Leading men Gastón Pauls and Fabian Darín showcase very natural, believable performances and have great onscreen chemistry without a hint of superficial, pop-culture vanity.

The Bad: In 2004, this film was remade by American studios into a film called Criminal. Although I haven't seen Criminal and therefore will not criticize that film, Bielinsky's original is fine as it is and does not need to be remade.

Who would like this movie: If you enjoyed heist/con/crime movies such as the 2001 version of Ocean's 11, then Nine Queens is right up your alley. It's a film that you have to pay close attention to, and perhaps even view a second time. Any fan of crime movies can get drawn into this adventure.

The urban background and slick plot-line could place this film in any big city, despite the fact that it was shot specifically in Buenos Aires. It's a movie that doesn't have a "foreign feel" to it (other than the language) and the subject matter pretty much cuts across cultural lines. All in all, it's a cool movie that succeeds without ever trying to be cool.

(3 1/2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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