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Nine Queens

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Thrillers tend to revolve around various objects, from something as immaterial as a piece of information to things like nuclear weaponry. To the best of my knowledge, though (and no doubt someone will correct me if I’m wrong), Nine Queens is the first thriller revolving around a set of stamps.

Nine Queens is the first film from Argentinian director Fabian Bielinsky, and it’s the story of two conmen, Juan and Marcos, who meet when Juan tries to pull a rather foolish trick at a gas station and Marcos saves him from the station management. Marcos takes Juan under his wing for the day, as his regular partner has mysteriously vanished.

Then, with excellent timing, Marcos gets a call from another fomer associate who’s got a fantastic deal for him: to sell a forged sheet of rare German stamps to a Spanish businessman. But they’ll have to clinch the deal very quickly indeed, as the businessman in question is going to be deported from Argentina the following morning.

So Marcos and Juan have a busy day ahead of them, trying to set up this one in a million job, and as you can probably guess, nothing goes quite according to plan. That’s about as much of the story as I can give away because after that point it’s just complications piled upon twists all the way to the end.

This is a really great little film which keeps your attention focused on it right from the start. As it progresses and as more and more characters come into the film, you find yourself wondering more and more just who’s going to wind up on top of the pile as the ultimate scammer.

Juan and Marcos are the focus of the film, though, and the really nice thing about the film is how it handles the characterisation of the relationship between them. They make a great odd couple, Marcos being the much more experienced and amoral figure, the one who does crime for a living, and Juan as the much less experienced, less flamboyant and overt one who’s really only moved into the life of crime as a way to help his dad out of a sticky situation.

Basically Nine Queens is a straightforward, unpretentious, commercial-style thriller, and a fine example of it. Had it been an American film, it would likely have been a huge hit; the American remake rights are apparently being negotiated at the moment, which means it probably will wind up a big, flashy (and probably not half as interesting) Hollywood production sooner rather than later. Until then, give the original a go. A lot of fun, and probably one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

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About James Russell

  • Ray

    One of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee mysteries, The Scarlet Ruse, centered around stamp collecting.