Reviewed by Dennis Morton
Looking for super stars or special effects?
Or maybe an exotic locale? Then don’t bother with Nine Queens. All it can
offer is the best con game in town. And it’s not our town.
Set in the present, somewhere in urban
Argentina, Nine Queens is the story of a swindle. Don’t go if you’re sleepy.
You’ll need all your brain cells on high alert to follow this one. The
plot is more intricate than the inside of a Swiss watch, and if you can
unravel the convoluted machinations of the protagonists before the closing
credits roll, you should write your own screenplay, because you’re good.
You’re very good if you can beat this gem of the genre to the punch.
In fact, Nine Queens made it to the screen
because director/scriptwriter Fabian Bielinsky won a contest. His script
was chosen over 350 others and the prize was the opportunity to film this
Relying on intelligent actors and his
own brilliant script, Bielinsky’s real target is the audience. And I have
to admit, I was an easy mark. Just when I thought I had it all figured
out and was feeling a bit smug, wham, the story changed course.
In the art of the con, ‘timing’ is crucial.
In Nine Queens, someone is always walking out of the scene, only to be
called back into it by the ostensible victim, baited, at least ostensibly,
by greed. And ‘ostensible’ is a key descriptor in this, or any, con game.
Not much is as it seems.
The ghost of Richard Nixon’s oratory haunts
the screen. You could make a parlor game out of counting how many times
and how many characters proclaim “I’m not a crook”. Guessing who really
is, of course, is what the movie is all about.
There is little of beauty in this gritty
quasi-comic drama. The streets are grubby and mean. Most of the long shots
are set within a cavernous hotel lit with artificial moons and suns that
render the human inhabitants small and insignificant.
I could tell you a bit about the plot
– that it revolves around a scheme to sell a bogus set of valuable stamps
to a corrupt millionaire, but I won’t offer any details. You should walk
into the theatre knowing as little about this film as possible. Should
you find yourself in a position to watch a preview of the film, I’d advise
a visit to the snack bar. Surprise is of the essence in Nine Queens and
any reviewer who offers up the storyline should be flogged with popcorn
and deprived of movies for a month.
Like some of the characters in the movie,
I have to ask you to take my word on this one: Nine Queens is a terrific
film. Come on, take a chance. I’m not a crook.
Nine Queens is playing at The Nickelodeon
Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz. For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.
Copyright Dennis Morton 2002