Directed by Fabián Bielinsky, starring Gastón Paus, Ricardo Darín, Leticia Bredice and Tomás Fonzi.

A major hit in Argentina for first-time feature film director Fabián Bielinsky, 'Nine Queens' is a mannered and meticulously plotted crime caper set on the streets of Buenos Aires.

Small-time con-man Juan (Pauls) gets caught while trying to pull off a bill-changing trick in a Buenos Aires convenience store but is saved by a fellow scam-artist Marcos (Darín), posing as a policeman. Intrigued by Juan's attitude, the more experienced Marcos asks the younger man to be his partner for a day. Initially reluctant, Juan eventually agrees and the pair pull some minor scams together, discovering that Marcos' proficiency is complimented by Juan's innocent face and improvisational skills. But suddenly, with a call from Marcos' fiery sister Valeria (Bredice), the stakes become much, much higher.

Marcos' ex-partner needs help with a scam that involves a set of forged stamps and a dubious Spanish businessman who is eager to acquire them before his imminent deportation. In a trek which takes Juan and Marcos from the slums to the expensive hotels of Buenos Aires, they edge ever-closer to that one perfect job in a con-man's career - but it seems as if everyone wants a slice of the action - and someone is going to end up in pieces.

'Nine Queens' is a remarkable debut for director Fabián Bielinsky, who was also responsible for writing the screenplay. He skilfully introduces character after character, plot twist upon double cross to a near-confusing degree and yet never drops the threads, tying everything together neatly at the end.

Unfortunately several of the twists that Bielinsky introduces are signposted too far in advance and this predictability lessens the overall impact of 'Nine Queens'. Uneven pacing and occasional aimlessness further diminish the film but, with a sterling cast and intelligent script, it's not a bad way to spend an evening.

Double crossing and crime capers, Argentinean style.

Caroline Hennessy