> Volume 6 > Number 29


Gregory Jacobs

Diego Luna
John C. Reilly
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Peter Mullan
Jonathan Tucker

Release: 10 Sep. 04



“Which, considering the xenophobia inherent in today’s cinema, an English-language remake seems almost inevitable; though some of the thrill would be lost without the film’s pitch-perfect understanding of the Buenos Aires criminal underworld.”

That was me two years ago on the Argentine film Nine Queens, a minor but enjoyable heist film that made a small splash with art house crowds. I was, of course, right when I predicted a remake, and again right when I worried the loss of an idea setting. The remake, Criminal, try desperately to recreate the magic that was in Nine Queens, but even when a seedy Buenos Aires has been replaced by an even seedier Los Angeles, the whole film feels falser than the scams it imparts.

This is a clear representation of what a different a setting and its tone can do for a film. Criminal is nearly verbatim recreation of Nine Queens, but none of the twists feels right. They just feel so contrived, so out-of-place that none of the modest genius that came with each twist in the original has the same impact.

Certainly, part of the blame goes on the actors, most of whom are great performers but don’t really fit their roles. The clean-cut look of Diego Luna is especially distracting because he never feels like a conman, and, ultimately, you feel bad for him being drawn through the more fitting exploits of John C. Reilly (essentially playing Philip Baker Hall’s character in Hard Eight). No matter how much the story may remain the same, the secondary elements fail the original. This is no better proof of the auteur theory

©2004, David Perry,, 16 July 2004