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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"Not everyone is lucky enough to have a clean conscience."
DVD ReviewJuan (Pauls) is at best a low rent con man when Nine Queens begins to unfold its labyrinthine series of twists and turns. When he tries to pull the same trick twice in the same convenience store, he gets more than he bargains for and is accosted by the staff and saved by the older, perhaps wiser, Marcos (Darin). Marcos is also a con man, though his schemes rely more on fast thinking than the genuine charm that Juan possesses. When the chance comes along for the pair to double-cross a wealthy man by offering him a rare stamp collection called the Nine Queens, the catch is that the Nine Queens held by Juan and Marcos is an amazingly detailed fake.
To say more would be to spoil the surprises and sheer thrill that comes from viewing Nine Queens; with its intricate plot, I even wonder if I have already said too much. Nine Queens represents a most deliciously deceptive game that has not been seen since David Mamet put pen to paper with his equally cunning The Spanish Prisoner. Writer/director Fabian Bielinsky, who won a contest in Argentina similar to the recent Project Greenlight, does such a refreshing and terrific job of misleading his audience that, for once, I could not tell which way things would turn out in the end. The film's strongest point is the veiled way in which the script plays nearly every character involved in the con so that no one is above suspicion.
Bielinsky manages to thrust situations and turns at the viewer while keeping the plot one step ahead. The relationship between Juan and Marco as they learn from each other is well written. In a brilliant setup, they try to outdo one another in their confidence games, duping old ladies as well as seemingly well-minded elevator passengers. Most importantly, the script never owes anything to one particular character, a flaw shown in Mamet's nearly perfect Heist or the equally competent The Score, as both Juan and Marcos draw the same amount of energy that keeps each character likeable enough until the end. Even then, the lines are not clearly drawn.
This is Bielinsky's first film after a nearly twenty years in television and commercials work, and he shows promise as a gifted director. His camerawork and sense of storytelling are terrific, never too flashy or distracting. Bielinsky offers a streamlined film that perfectly suits the material. The performances are also notable; both Darin and Pauls create believable confidence artists who fit their roles perfectly.
Nine Queens is certainly one of the year's best films, though I fear that its audience may be lost given the poor turn out when it was released in May of this year against some truly heavy hitters. The script, pacing and performances make Nine Queens extraordinary, and a lot of fun, too.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic image, Nine Queens offers what can best be considered an average transfer. Shot on low-grade film stock, the image suffers from a sort of haze that plagues the majority of the film. Colors are vibrant though, especially during a riverside chase in chapter seventeen, which showcases the blues of the water perfectly. This is the only time the transfer is truly radiant. Sharpness and detail are fine, although hampered by the previously mentioned haziness. I noticed no noticeable edge enhancement, while the print used seemed to be free of flaws.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Presented in a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer with English and French subtitles Nine Queens boasts a better soundtrack than I had expected. The surround speakers are alive with Cesar Lernerís wonderfully fast-paced score, while the center channel does a nice job of creating rich and clear dialogue.
The packaging for Nine Queens states that the Spanish Dolby Digital track is in fact a 5.0 mix, though every DVD player I tested showed it to be full 5.1. This is a moot point though, as the mix never really features much in the way of low-end bass.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English and French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Lady and the Duke, and My wife is an Actress
Extras Review: Trailers for Nine Queens, The Lady and the Duke, and My Wife is an Actress are offered in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Surround.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsNine Queens is the sort of film that deserves a wider audience due to the sheer brilliance of its script and performances. It is sad that the film failed to do better at American box offices, but hopefully this undiscovered gem will find its way into your player. Recommended.
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