Nine Queens - Twisted, Scheming Con Movie

                           All over the world, in every community, pickpockets, swindlers and all type of wicked persons prey upon business establishments and ordinary people. These pranksters wander around streets, looks for something and takes advantage of the unselfishness of those who genuinely care about other people. In the Argentine film, "Nine Queens", people get swindled, bamboozled and fleeced. People fall prey to Marcos, a master player, who knows every thing about the art of grifting.

                          Most of the foreign films we watch might be critically acclaimed, but sometimes they tend to be high-minded, ambitious or artsy.You need a lot of concentration to watch these artful foreign movies. So it is sometimes energizing to watch a foreign movie that has nothing on its mind other than to entertain and surprise us. In writer/director Fabian Belinsky's debut feature, con artistry both a genre convention and a metaphor for a wider corruption.

        Marcos (Ricardo Darin) is dismayed by the mistakes made by a young fellow during a two-bit convenience store hustle. Marcos is a experienced con man, and he offers to teach the young Juan (Gaston Pauls) the tricks of their trade. Juan takes the offer and they both begin working some small time scams. That’s when an old partner, Sandler (Óscar Núñez), of Marcos call him. Sandler is a counterfeiter who has a copy of the Nine Queens (a set of rare stamps from Weimar Germany) and he plans to sell them to an incurable collector (Ignasi Abadal) who - seeing as he’s about to be deported - will make an impulse buy without a thorough check of the stamps.

               Marcos starts doing all the work for the swindle -- by getting the forgeries and involving his sister Valeria (Leticia Bredice), who works at the hotel where Gandolfo is staying. Valeria hates Marcos for having cheated her and their younger brother out of their inheritance. From then on, the film enchants us in piling on the twists so that we are never sure whom to trust and are immediately suspicious of each new character and their motives.

                The plot wouldn't be as effective were they not brought out by the outstanding characterizations, particularly that of Darin as Marcos. Darin as the smart con man has just enough charisma to center the attention on him, plus the energy and quicksilver ability to improvise. Pauls as Juan gives a immensely charismatic performance and blends equal measures of animal cunning into his portrait of a gifted novice. By making their characters impossible to guess, Bredice and Abadal are memorable. 

                  Director Fabian Belinsky was just an assistant director, when he won a screenplay competition. As a result, he was given funding for this brilliantly written movie. He later made the critically acclaimed "The Aura", but unfortunately died at the age of 47 in 2006. In "Nine Queens", Belinsky sets the feel of the film right from the opening scene, with Juan's small-time con by trying to pull the 'change' trick on successive cashiers in the same store. He also shoots in an efficient, practical style rather than a fashionably flashy mode. The script is fast pace at the same time has more profundity than your usual caper flick, as Belinsky concentrates more on character than on tricking the audience.

                  What causes the film more intriguing than other con-artist movie is that it  is situated in a larger social scene rather than being a board game. In one of the best scenes of the film, Marcos points to the streaming passersby on a downtown street and identifies all the swindlers lurking for prey. It's like we are all of a sudden shown an infrared image of an ordinary urban scene, illuminating the rottenness within. That scene shows us that, we're not facing a parallel universe but at our own, devoid of sentiment or illusion. It says that, in a universe where everyone is out to get something for nothing, no one is trustworthy.

                 With a razor-sharp script and terrific performances, "Nine Queens" is exciting, entertaining and witty.  It is a honest delicious crime drama about dishonesty. 


Nine Queens - IMDb

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