Nine Queens

Two con men meet and form a temporary, serendipitous alliance on the very day that the swindle of a lifetime is coming to fruition, and the con man who put it together is suddenly taken ill. Can they pull off the delicate grift, or will their mutual mistrust topple the house of cards before it pays off? Juan (Gastón Pauls) is strictly a small-time con...read more

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Two con men meet and form a temporary, serendipitous alliance on the very day that the swindle of a lifetime is coming to fruition, and the con man who put it together is suddenly taken ill. Can they pull off the delicate grift, or will their mutual mistrust topple the house of cards before it pays off? Juan (Gastón Pauls) is strictly a small-time con man, and he's only doing it because he needs some fast cash to help out his father. Marcos (Ricardo Darin) is a committed charlatan whose longtime partner has disappeared without a trace. Juan gets caught pulling a petty bill-changing hustle at a convenience store and Marcos intercedes, pretending to be a cop and whisking Juan out of harm's way. By way of thanks, he proposes that Juan act as his partner for a day; Marcos knows the angles but doesn't work well alone. Juan agrees, but reluctantly: His heart isn't in the business of conning gullible old ladies and distracted shop clerks and, anyway, he knows better than to trust a professional cheat. Then fate steps in: Marcos gets a call from his estranged sister, Valeria (Leticia Bredice), who works at a swanky hotel where one of Marcos's old partners, Sandler (Oscar Nuñez), has just collapsed in the lobby. Pale and gasping, Sandler lets Marcos in on a secret: He's forged a set of rare, Weimar Republic stamps — "The Nine Queens" — and was about to approach hotel guest Vidal Gandolfo (Ignasi Abadal), a shady Spanish businessman and avid stamp collector who's being deported the following morning, with an eye to selling them. The forgeries won't pass spectrographic analysis, but with the right pitch and the pressure of his impending departure brought to bear in exactly the right way, Gandolfo could be persuaded to buy the Queens without scientific authentication. What follows is a series of bluffs and counter-bluffs, as Juan and Marcos try to hustle Gandolfo — who's nobody's fool — and each other, while a series of unforeseen complications raise the stakes ever higher. Argentine writer-director Fabián Bielinsky's feature debut is a smart, enormously entertaining thriller whose preposterous conclusion in no way diminishes the fun of getting there. And underneath the larky kicks, there's genuine darkness: The moment when Marcos points out the thieves, pimps, junkies and bagmen milling undetected in a midtown crowd is genuinely chilling, like turning over a familiar rock and seeing the nightcrawlers underneath. (In Spanish, with subtitles)

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Two con men meet and form a temporary, serendipitous alliance on the very day that the swindle of a lifetime is coming to fruition, and the con man who put it together is suddenly taken ill. Can they pull off the delicate grift, or will their mutual mistru… (more)

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