Nine Queens is delightful sleight-of-hand filmmaking from Argentina. Like card hustlers, it lures the audience with what looks like simplicity but turns out to be meticulously rigged. The premise is simple: two low-level thieves meet, agree to work together for a few hours, and chance upon a lucrative opportunity to vend forged stamps to an avid collector about to leave town. Juan (Gaston Pauls) has an honest face and a father in jail who needs a good lawyer. Marcos (Ricardo Darin), an older hustler who asserts his authority over Juan, has swindled his siblings out of their inheritance. He's staging the scam in the very hotel where his justifiably irate sister works.
Director Fabian Bielinsky maintains an excellent sense of pacing. He skillfully places Juan and Marcos in a rising tide of intrigue against the glass-and-steel backdrop of modern Buenos Aires. Although filmed before Argentina's financial crisis, there is already an episode in which banks are portrayed as just another level of hustle. Yet Nine Queens is an actorly movie. Nuances of motive, desire, and the characters' ability to judge these in each other create the mounting tension. While movie holds a few tricks up its sleeve, the audience gets drawn in and ultimately rewarded by Bielinsky's agile craft.