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(nueve reinas)
star. Ricardo Darin; Gaston Pauls; Leticia Bredice; Tomas Fonzi
writ / dir. Fabian Bielinsky

Who in their right mind wouldn't want to be a grifter? If Hollywood has taught us anything, it is that conning strangers out of well-earned cash is the coolest, most romantic job ever… period.

Nine Queens, hailing from Argentina, won seven Silver Condors (it's like an oscar only in Spanish), including Best Picture, Best Director (Bielinsky) and Best Actor (Ricardo Darin). Darin and Pauls split a Best Actor award for Nine Queens from the International Festival of Latin American Cinema.

Nine Queens is the story of two con men, Juan (Pauls) and Marcos (Darin), trying to pull off the grift of a life-time. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and chaos ensues.

The Pros:

There are a number of very cool things about this movie. Almost all of them have to do with the characters exquisitely crafted by Bielinsky and portrayed by a very fine cast. The majority of movies in the ilk of Nine Queens are driven by plot and twists, but there is no question that this is a movie about its characters.

I really enjoyed the fact that the tricks and cons themselves were not at all elaborate. Some of them were almost boring to watch, but, because of this, they all seemed completely authentic and believable. While there weren't any 'ooohs' and 'ahhhs' over the cons, I realized something kind of deep while watching.... being a con-artist isn't about the elaborate tricks or complicated schemes of Ocean's Eleven and the like. Being a con artist is about having huge pendulous balls and being terribly, terribly lucky.

Nine Queens' take on the grifter is as original as Y Tu Mamma Tambien's take on the road trip.

The Cons:

There is a clinical detachment that I get while watching any grifter film. There is a very simple fact about these movies that removes all real emotion for me. Namely that you can't believe anything that anyone says or does. The basic assumption you make is that everything one character says to another is a lie. And so the more you watch the movie, the less you know to be true. And, unfortunately, the less you care about the story. And more unfortunately for Nine Queens, the less you also care about the characters. And here the characters are vital.

Also, Nine Queens wraps itself up far too neatly, it answers every single question, even the ones you weren't asking. It abandons all the charms of its beginning. Grifting, it turn out, is not about balls or being lucky, it is, in fact, about elaborate schemes and having complete, godlike, control over everything in an entire city.

What is really tragic about Nine Queens is how formulaic it becomes. This movie had the potential to carry it in any direction it wanted. Random killing spree or tender romance; either could have worked. I was half expecting it to simply end, for better or worse, at the end of the day. As if to say "This is a day in the life of a con man. There is no grand scheme at play. It's simply a portrayal of one man's job and way of life." This might have conveyed an idea that was almost original.

The Ratings: (out of four)

Action rating: Half a schwarzenegger
Action-wise the movie is a little void. There are only two guns in the entire thing and one of them is fake. There's no gore, no violence, nothing. I don't think there's even that much harsh language, but I don't speak Spanish so I'm not all that sure.

Acting rating: Four Dames Judi Dench
The acting is excellent. It is really what holds this movie together. The two principals (Darin, Pauls) are superb, and they are held up beautifully by an exquisite supporting cast.

Cute boy rating: Two Chelsea queens
The slack-jawed Juan is cute enough, although in some of the close ups you can see how much foundation they had to cake on to make him look 26. However, Fede (Tomas Fonzi) is probably the cutest, most adorable thing you will see on screen this entire year. It sucks he's only got about five minutes of screen time. But damn! Those are some nice five minutes.

Bad ass chick rating: three Joan Jetts
Valeria (Leticia Bredice) kicked ass. Any one whose name sounds like a horribly scarring STD has to. She is the only real female character in the movie and so this rating is all for her. Her character is subtle, and vicious, and absolutely terrifying. She is, without a doubt, the most enjoyable aspect of the movie

Over all Coolness rating: two and half oh-so-suave Bedford hipsters
While more simple than your standard, twisting 2-D theft and intrigue movie, Nine Queens is far, far better. It is completely genuine and the characters are very deep. Despite my petty gripes with it, there is nothing cheap about this movie, and it is definitely worth seeing.

Now playing at:
Bam Rose Cinema: 30 Lafayette, Brooklyn
Landmark Sunshine Theater: 143 East Houston St. Manhattan
Lincoln Plaza: 30 Lincoln Plaza, Manhattan


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