|Directed by||Fabián Bielinsky|
|Written by||Fabián Bielinsky|
|Produced by||Cecilia Bossi|
|Edited by||Sergio Zottola|
|Music by||César Lerner|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista International|
Nine Queens (Spanish: Nueve reinas) is a 2000 Argentinian crime drama film written and directed by Fabián Bielinsky and starring Ricardo Darín, Gastón Pauls, Leticia Brédice, Tomás Fonzi and Alejandro Awada.
The story centers on two con artists who meet and decide to cooperate in a major scam. The film was nominated for 28 awards and won 21 of them, and is now considered a classic in Argentinian film history.
At a convenience store early in the morning, Juan (Gastón Pauls), a con artist, successfully scams one cashier, but he is caught when he attempts the same scam on a different cashier at the same store. Marcos (Ricardo Darín), who has been observing Juan, pretends to be a police officer and takes Juan away. Once they are far enough from the store, Marcos reveals he is a fellow con man whose partner has recently disappeared. He asks Juan to try out being his partner for the day, an arrangement to which Juan agrees because his father, who is also a con man, is in jail and needs to raise $70,000 quickly in order to bribe a judge.
Later that day, the chance to take part in an elaborate and potentially lucrative scheme arises when Sandler (Oscar Nuñez), a former business associate of Marcos, contacts Marcos to ask for help selling a counterfeit sheet of some rare stamps that he made (the "nine queens" of the title). The potential mark is Gandolfo (Ignasi Abadal), a rich, corrupt, stamp-collecting Spaniard who is staying at the hotel where Marcos' sister Valeria (Leticia Brédice) happens to work while he waits to be deported the next day. Since there is insufficient time to properly check if the stamps are authentic, Gandolfo hires an expert (Leo Dyzen) to come to his room and do a quick check, and he is satisfied by the confirmation he receives. He offers $450,000 for the stamps, with the exchange to take place that evening. Outside of the hotel, the stamp expert says he knew the stamps were forged and demands Juan and Marcos pay him for saying they were genuine. The fake stamps are then stolen out of Juan and Marcos' hands by thieves on a motorcycle who, unaware of their value, toss them into a river.
To salvage the scheme, Marcos and Juan approach Sandler's widowed sister Berta (Elsa Berenguer), as she is the owner of the real stamps, which she agrees to sell for $250,000. Marcos says he can put up $200,000 and asks Juan to contribute the remaining $50,000. The fact that Marcos needs the exact amount of money he knows Juan has been able to save so far to help his father (Ricardo Díaz Mourelle) makes Juan suspicious, but, after visiting his father in jail, he ultimately agrees to the arrangement.
Marcos and Juan buy the real stamps and go back to the hotel, where, after finding out that Valeria is Marcos' sister, Gandolfo says he has changed his mind and will now only buy the stamps if he also gets to sleep with Valeria. She says her price for doing so is that Marcos must confess to their younger brother Federico (Tomás Fonzi) that Marcos cheated both Valeria and him out of their family inheritance. After he does so, Valeria spends the night with Gandolfo, who pays for the stamps with a certified check the next morning. Juan and Marcos rush to the bank, only to see a crowd outside and learn the bank has crashed due to fraud by the management, making the check worthless. Juan, looking disillusioned, walks away, while Marcos sticks around to see if he can find a way to still get the money.
In the final scene, Juan arrives at a warehouse, where he greets the motorcycle thieves, Gandolfo, Sandler, Berta, and Valeria, who is Juan's girlfriend – revealing that the real con was to swindle Marcos out of $200,000 as revenge for all the times he cheated his family and his partners.
The main character of the film is trying to remember the tune of a Rita Pavone song throughout the film. The song, "Il Ballo del Mattone", plays as the end credits run.
The film opened wide in Argentina on August 31, 2000. The film was screened at various film festivals, including: the Telluride Film Festival, United States; the Toronto International Film Festival, Canada; the Medellín de Película, Colombia; the Portland International Film Festival, United States; the Cognac Festival du Film Policier, France; the München Fantasy Filmfest, Germany; the Norwegian International Film Festival, Norway; and others.
In the United States it opened on a limited basis on April 19, 2002.
The film's screenplay was adapted for the 2004 American film Criminal. It was also used as a basis for three Indian films: the Bollywood film Bluffmaster! (2005), the Malayalam film Gulumal (2009) and the Telugu film All the Best (2012).
Nine Queens garnered mostly positive reviews from film critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 92% approval rating based on 95 reviews, with an average rating of 7.45/10. The site's consensus reads: "Deliciously twist-filled, Nine Queens is a clever and satisfying crime caper." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80/100 based on 30 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert, in his review of Nine Queens for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film a score of three out of four stars, commending its screenplay and calling the film "an elegant and sly deadpan comedy." Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune awarded the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, and called it "One of the most clever, most enjoyable thrillers in years." Orlando Sentinel film critic Roger Moore gave the film four stars out of five, writing, "the laughs are dark, the puzzle steadily more engrossing and the surprises, just like Heist, are doozies, up to the finale." Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave the film a positive review, writing: "Fast-paced and unerringly surprising, Nine Queens is nicely performed by a large cast [...] David Mamet plowed this con-the-con turf in Heist, House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner, but Bielinsky, in his directing debut, makes it seem sassy and reinvented."
Geoff Pevere of The Toronto Star wrote in his review of the film: "If Nine Queens draws you on a journey that eventually leads up a garden path toward your own suckerhood, it's all the more pleasurable for having done so with such slick expertise." BBC film critic Tom Dawson called the film "a welcome addition to the genre" and a "taut thriller a powerful allegorical resonance."