Directed by: Fabian Bielinsky
Written by:Fabian Bielinsky
Starring: Gaston Pauls, Ricardo Darin, Leticia Bredice, Tomas Fonzi
Released: September 26, 2002
Grade: A-

Made two years ago, Nine Queens was one of the most successful films in Argentina and is now sneaking its way around the world.  It premiered here at the Brisbane International Film Festival where it placed fourth on the audience popularity ranking.  Don’t be perturbed by the Spanish dialect and English subtitles, this film breaths life in the cinematic marketplace which is currently void of anything remotely creative.

At a convenience store, Juan (Pauls) pulls an old scam with a $50 note and walks away $45 richer.  He tries to pull the same stunt with a new attendant in the store but gets busted and the owner threatens to calls the police.  Watching the whole time is an Marcos (Darin), who flashes his badge, pretends to be a police officer and takes Juan outside.

Of course Marcos is also a con artist and has done a rare good deed in intervening to save Juan.  His last partner disappeared and Marcos needs someone to help him scam the streets.  Juan needs a lot of money to bribe his father out of jail and agrees to go along for the day to see what Marcos has to offer.  They pull some light cons before a “one in a million” opportunity comes along.

Getting a call from an old friend named Sandler, Marcos heads to the hotel where his estranged sister, Valeria (Bredice) works.  Marcos and Valeria are at odds as both were left a large inheritance from their grandparents and Marcos is holding up the release of the funds in the courts so he can screw his sister over.  At the hotel, an ill Sandler tells Marcos he has a forgery of some very rare stamps, the “Nine Queens”, that he going to sell to a wealthy collector staying in the hotel.  The collector is being deported the following day and there isn’t much time to reach a deal.  Sandler asks Marcus to sell the stamps for him which Marcus of course agrees to for a very large cut.  Marcus soon finds he needs Juan to help him and offers him a small piece of pie.

This is but the first half of a movie that seems simple but will keep you guessing to the very end.  With so many characters and so many potential con-artists, it comes down to a question of who is playing who.  Reflecting back, the script does seem a little too hard to believe but in that darkened cinema, it was the least of my concerns.  Like other great twist-thrillers, The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense, Nine Queens delivers with a ending designed to jolt you.

Made by a first-timer, Fabian Bielinsky has assembled a well defined cast.  They are all intriguing characters.  I expect to see most of them never again as Argentinean cinema does not have a predominant place in Australian/American film culture.  It’s the way it always is.  Good or bad, American films will always be released in this country.  However, only good foreign films with already established reputations will ever be released here.  So don’t be “conned” by inferior Yankee product and take the time to see Nine Queens.