Nine Queens

"Good"

Nine Queens Review


You've likely seen a number of films a bit too much like Argentinean writer/director Fabián Belinksy's debut Nine Queens (Mamet's House of Games is the first that rushes too mind). This movie isn't shy about obviously referencing its influences, but it still feels confused, stuck firmly between genres. The twisting narrative clashes with elements of a traditional slice-of-life character study, and the unfocused result is a film that isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Despite its flaws, however, Belinsky is still able to create an engaging story that keeps you guessing at almost every turn.

The first scene sets the tone for the entire film: Juan (Gastón Paulis), a young con man, attempts to scam the cashiers at a convenience store, using a trick designed to confuse them into giving him an excess amount of change as he breaks a large bill. When the store's manager catches him, a mysterious man named Marcos (Ricardo Darín) displays a gun and assures everyone that he's a police detective and is going to bring the thief back to the station. Marcos drags Juan outside, and then reveals himself to be a con man as well. Marcos, a seasoned hustler, offers the inexperienced Juan a chance to be his partner. Juan initially refuses, but after a little more persuasion, Marcos has found a new right-hand man.

Marcos meets up with a former business associate, who informs him that a wealthy stamp collector (Ignasi Abadal) is in town. The old man goes on to tell Marcos about the whereabouts of a forged replication of an extremely rare stamp set known as the Nine Queens, which he believes they can easily dupe the collector into shelling out top dollar for. Conveniently, the collector just happens to be staying at the hotel that Marcos's sexy sister Valeria (Leticia Bredice) manages. Valeria's relationship with her older brother has become more than a little strained thanks to a decision from Marcos's past in which he swindled his two siblings out of a family inheritance. In their quest for an enormous payday, Marcos and Juan attempt to secure and sell the stamps, which opens the floodgates for a non-stop chain of double crosses and betrayals.

Nine Queens is derivative and gimmicky, but not without some inspiration. Its maze of backstabbing and coincidence certainly requires a complete suspension of disbelief, but the story progresses with a nice ebb and flow. We get a chance to know the central characters (or so we think), but its lofty ambition isn't met with a similar level of execution, making the film feel flat and just a tiny bit self-important. You can almost see the filmmaker patting himself on the back with every twist he sprinkles in.

Bredice steals the show from the two lead actors with her confident, seductive strut, exuding a captivating femme fatale quality not often seen these days (at least in the northern hemisphere). Unfortunately, the film becomes derailed when it lingers on the relationship between Juan and Marcos, as their routine grows tiresome in short order. For all the time Belinsky invests in these characters, he doesn't construct them in an identifiable or intriguing way. There's never any reason to become overly concerned with these small time crooks' journey.

Belinsky mainly employs a handheld camera to organically capture the film's environment. He also mixes in a few more daring shots, none of which feel forced or out-of-place, to inject a smart visual style to the proceedings. It's regrettable, ultimately, that the director is partially betrayed by his script's lack of restraint.

Nine Queens is decent enough entertainment, but too often sags under the weight of its own good intentions.

Aka Nueve reinas.

You're gonna bump heads, guys.



Nine Queens

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 31st August 2000

Box Office USA: $1.1M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Production compaines: Naya Films S.A., Patagonik Film Group

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 86 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Fabián Bielinsky

Starring: Ricardo Darín as Marcos, Gastón Pauls as Juan, as Valéria, María Mercedes Villagra as Convenience Store Employee 2, Gabriel Correa as Convenience Store Manager, Pochi Ducasse as Aunt

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