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January 29, 2005

Review: Nine Queens

Nine Queens

Every heist movie has its equivalent to the romantic comedy "meet-cute" -- that moment when a mark meets up with the con man who will be his ultimate undoing. The "meet-cute" here is truly excellent when you first watch it, it completely draws you in and establishes the framework of the movie you think you're about to see. But ultimately unsatisfying when you reflect back on it, having watched the whole film -- the "meet-cute" doesn't seem like it fits anymore. It's as if you suspend belief in one way, when the movie really needs you to have suspended belief in another way, without telling you.

I didn't like that about the movie, but other than that, the tale was well-told. As with any heist movie, you're waiting for the shoe to drop. You're on tenterhooks waiting to see how the mark will be separated from his money; you read more into characters and situations than are there on the screen. It's skillfully done, and no wonder someone wanted to remake it, but it doesn't ascend to Mamet's level of genius.

The performances are very good, at least, in translation. This is an Argentinian film, so I was reading subtitles while watching. Gastón Pauls, a fresh-faced and honest-looking crook, is thoroughly convincing as the apprentice to Ricardo Darín's equally appropriate master con-man. The interplay between the two men is the best part of the film, like a buddy movie but where the buddies don't trust each other at all.

It's rare that a movie can pull the wool over my eyes -- I knew who was Kaiser Sozei in the first fifteen minutes of The Usual Suspects¹ -- but then, I don't think that this was achieved honestly in this case. And that just left a bad taste in my mouth.

**½ (out of four)

¹Admittedly, not by name -- his name wasn't revealed until some time later -- but I knew who was doing all that killing revealed in the opening scenes.

Posted by Brett Douville at January 29, 2005 10:27 AM


It's a remake of a Mamet movie? Or someone's going to remake this?

Posted by: Jamie at January 29, 2005 12:23 PM

Someone has already remade it as Criminal, with John Reilly in one of the roles. It's not Mamet, it's just that Mamet owns the genre.

Posted by: Brett Douville at January 29, 2005 08:50 PM