Nine Queens (Day 10)

Nine QueensMy Opinion: 6.4 || An entertaining, intellectually engaging movie about con men who are as busy trying to swindle each other as their mark. All the pleasures of a good fast-talking, fast-moving crime movie — up there with The Sting in its cleverness and tight execution.

TITLE: Nine Queens (Nueve reinas)
DIRECTOR: Fabián Bielinsky
LANGUAGE: Spanish | COUNTRY: Argentina
YEAR: 2000
PROFILE: Thriller, Caper114 Minutes | IMDb (7.8)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): Two con artists try to swindle a stamp collector by selling him a sheet of counterfeit rare stamps (the “nine queens”). 

Strengths: It’s a great script in a genre where story is everything. Great directing and performances can make up for a mediocre script in comedy and action, for instance. But in a movie that lives for its twists and double- and triple- and quadruple-crosses, the story mechanics provide much of the satisfaction, so the script needs to be exceptionally well engineered, and this one is.
Nine Queens

Acting: The leads are very engaging and believable (Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls) — we like them even as we (at some level) disapprove. The secondary performances are all strong as well, with the slight exception of Leticia Brédice, whose sour scolding has a one-note quality (though, in fairness, that may be what Bielinsky wanted from her).

Story Telling: Just like the peculiar pleasure that comes from being scared by a good horror film, there’s an odd but exhilarating pleasure in being conned by a film that tricks but doesn’t cheat. We take satisfaction in trying to figure out the game and — and (again, it’s odd) even greater satisfaction to find that we got taken anyway. It’s why mystery/thrillers are, for me, the most joyously engaging genre when done right (which is not often): We get the joy of intellectual challenge while being thoroughly entertained. Nine Queens +

Why we take such satisfaction in being tricked is a great subject in itself. I don’t have an answer, but one thing to consider is the way in which all storytelling involves a degree of trickery — every good story is a kind of con. The storyteller gains our confidence and pulls us ever-deeper into her game by skillfully manipulating information.

Best Scene: The concluding twist is great, even if does depend on one slightly far-fetched matter of convienient timing (at the bank). I did see the reversal coming, but only because I asked myself, “Okay if I were writing the screenplay, what I try to do?”

File Under: crime, con men, great twists, double crosses