Nine Queens

Nine Queens, from Argentina, is a heist flick from first-time writer-director Fabian Bielinsky that kicks the butt of such Hollywood scams as The Score. The setup is deceptively simple. Most cons are. Ricardo Darin gives a seductively low-key performance as Marcos, an experienced thief who enlists Juan (Gaston Pauls), a younger version of himself, to sell a rare sheet of stamps — the Nine Queens — to a buyer, Gandolfo (Ignasi Abadal), who has to get out of town fast. The better to sucker Gandolfo, since these Nine Queens are forgeries. There's a hitch; there always is. Marcos needs the help of his gorgeous sister Valeria (Leticia Bredice is sex on high heels), who works at the swank hotel where Gandolfo is staying. Marcos wants Valeria to distract Gandolfo with her body; Valeria wants Marcos to drop dead, since he has scammed her before. David Mamet has worked this side of the swindle street for years, from House of Games to The Spanish Prisoner and Heist, but upstart Bielinsky is loaded with new tricks. Nine Queens leaves you feeling tense and terrific. It's fun to be fooled.

From The Archives Issue 336: February 5, 1981