Criminal

You don’t have to keep a low profile to pull a successful sting, Jacobs’ con thriller teaches; bluster and brazenness are often key steps in the confidence game. And so this American, er, remake of the Argentine hit ‘Nine Queens’ (from Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney’s production company Section Eight) flaunts its translated status, opening with a couple of pages’ worth of Spanish dialogue in Latino LA as imported Mexican luminary Diego Luna (‘Y Tu Mamá También’) tries to pull the cigarette-change sting in a casino. Caught in the hustle, he’s saved by John C Reilly’s hawk-eyed senior swindler, who drags him off for grooming as a potential apprentice, first enquiring his name. It’s Rodrigo. ‘What? No, we gotta Anglo you up a little. Er… Brian.’

Directed by Soderbergh’s regular producer Jacobs, and re-written by the pair – another in the trail of on- and off-screen switcheroos that looks like the real conceptual project here – this filmic flimflam does a serviceable job of Brian-ing the snappy, sting-tailed original. Reilly is no-nonsense gruff, Luna lightweight – partly deliberately; both players’ confidence picks up with the plot, now revolving around a fake collectible treasury bill rather than a forged sheet of rare stamps. (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Mullan bolster the cast.) The US transfer hits a couple of hurdles, exposing the debts to Mamet and Elmore Leonard (though it has none of their pizzazz) and fumbling the Argentine version’s insinuations of economic corruption from the top. A brief tour of Beverly Hills’ restaurant racket and Luna’s blue-collar repose on a bus ride are the nearest it gets to social conscience.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday February 18 2005
Duration: 87 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Gregory Jacobs
Screenwriter: Gregory Jacobs
Cast: John C Reilly
Diego Luna
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Peter Mullan
Zitto Kazann
Jonathan Tucker
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