Cinema has always been well-suited to con-artist movies, perhaps because the medium itself is based on illusion, deception, and directorial sleight of hand.
Fabián Bielinsky's fast-moving "Nine Queens" - a huge hit in its native Argentina - is a welcome addition to the genre, comparing favourably to the likes of Stephen Frears' "The Grifters" and David Mamet's "House of Games".
The less the filmgoer knows about the narrative's twists and turns, the better - except to remember that nothing and nobody is quite what they seem.
Alongside the quicksilver performances of Darín and Pauls, and a number of sly supporting cameos, the real-life urban locations furnish "Nine Queens" with an immediacy and authenticity: we're left with a sense of a bustling modern city, awash with hustlers and thieves, pickpockets and swindlers, all taking advantage of the anonymity of the crowd.
Moreover, recent events in Argentina - specifically, the disintegration of the national economy, destroying the savings of millions - have given this taut thriller a powerful allegorical resonance.