Argentina (Spanish), 2000
114 min, crime thriller
Director: Fabian Bielinsky
The con artist's big breakMarcos, an experienced con artist, takes on the young, inexperienced Juan as an apprentice for a day. A call from Marcos's estranged sister gives them a lead to a big opportunity - a forger has created an exact duplicate of a rare set of stamps, the Nine Queens, which he was trying to sell to a stamp collecting, exiled diplomat who will leave the country the next day. When Marcos comes into possession of the stamps, he engages Juan's help to pull off the con. But as the difficulty increases and obstacles keep falling in their way, it becomes more and more difficult to determine who, exactly, is conning who.
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Like any great con movie, Nueve Reinas is full of deception and lies. The fun part is unravelling who is conning who, and how they are going about it. Was the whole movie one big con, or does it only seem that way to the viewer? How much was planned beforehand, laying in wait for the two main characters to arrive? Any story about lies is also intimately concerned with trust. Juan trusts Marcos to show him the ropes. Marcos' sister tries to convince their younger brother not to trust him. Juan's father trusts him to stay out of trouble and to bail him out of prison. But in this tangle of truth and lies, who is telling the truth? And what are they getting out of it?
Family, friends, and lovers?
One of this movie's major themes is the importance of family. As Marcos and Juan become caught up in the con of a lifetime, they are also caught up in a web of family intrigues. Marcos, we learn, has taken his sister and younger brother to court in an attempt to gain all of the family inheritance. His sister hates him. His brother still likes him, and seems to trust him despite everything. But when Marcos convinces his sister to do the unthinkable so that he, Marcos, will get money - what does family mean then? And will his brother still be able to love him? Is Marcos really worthy of love? This theme is repeated throughout the film. One of the first cons Marcos pulls is to trick an old woman into thinking that he is her nephew. Juan is trying to make money to help his dad out of prison. To Marcos, it seems that family is a malleable concept meant to be used to your advantage. And yet we see how lonely Marcos is; his one friend (on this day) seems to be Juan. He has betrayed and abandoned everyone else. Do we see a bit of repentance at the end of the movie? Perhaps. Or maybe Marcos is just sad about all the money he didn't get.