Since I first started writing this blog, I have always made an effort to label the leading actors as a way of tracking old posts and films. It was a surprise then and perhaps a testament to the talent of the man when I noticed that today's flick of the day would be the third to contain the talents of Argentine actor Ricardo Darin, the previous films being the excellent The Secret in Their Eyes and the equally compelling Vulture. One of the biggest names in Argentine cinema, he is a superb talent has only begun to be appreciated over the last decade outside of his own country.
Nine Queens is the tale of two con artists who meet in a supposedly random fashion on the streets of modern day Buenos Aires. Marcos, played by Darin, is the older wiser head of the two with an eye for a quick buck wherever it can be had regardless of the effect on his relationships with friends and family. He is quick, sharp and charming when he needs to be. Juan, played by Gaston Pauls, is the earnest and naive younger man who needs to raise money to get his father out of prison. The pair meet in a petrol station one night when Juan is caught attempting a scam and Marcos manages to talk him out of it. He offers Juan the chance to work with him foe one day as his partner has split town. Juan is hesitant at first but eventually agrees. They set off into the busy streets of the city to hatch money making schemes as and when they present themselves. Their focus soon turns to a wealthy Spanish businessman who is staying at a nearby hotel and has a passion for collecting stamps. They plot to sell him fake copies of a rare German stamp much to the annoyance of Marcos's sister who as well as being an employee of the hotel has also fallen out with her brother when he attempted to rob her inheritance. A tense and entertaining crime drama, one begins to feel early on that the protagonists are attempting to con each other and that all is not as it seems but who is the true master con artists and who is the mark?
Ricardo Darin is excellent as the sleazy yet likeable Marcos, a man who survives and thrives on the strength of his own wits. He is the focus of the movie and carries it at times. His fellow compatriot Gaston Pauls also gives an entertaining as the supposedly naive young thief Juan. He is the perfect foil to Marcos, helping the old hand out of a few tight scrapes as the film heats up.
Director Fabian Bielinsky makes the most of his tightly written script and allows the actors performances to flow. The story such as it is could not be accused of being too original and if you are the kind of movie goer with a penchant for seeing twist endings before they announce themselves then you will probably see this one coming a mile off. That said, the film moves along at a breezy base and there is enough humour to keep you entertained. While none of the characters involved are nice people, let us not forget they are all some form of con artist or scam artist, they are entertaining portrayals and it makes for an enjoyable ride.
Ricardo Darin's career has gone from strength to strength over the past decade and though the number of Argentine films which make it to release in European cinemas, even art house cinemas, is still low with talent like this on show the future is bright.