Two small-time swindlers meet, seemingly by chance, in a Buenos Aires convenience store. They agree to team up for the day, with the more experienced Marcos (Darín) offering to teach the younger Juan (Pauls) the tricks of their trade.
And then an opportunity to pull a major-league scam lands in their laps.
An expert forger contacts Marcos about a set of rare stamps from Weimar Germany - the 'Nine Queens' of the title.
A prospective buyer, Gandolfo (Abadal), is being extradited to Venezuela, and in his rush to complete a deal, he may not detect a set of forgeries.
There's a snag, though - he's staying at the hotel where Valeria (Brédice) works, and she hasn't forgiven brother Marcos for the way he attempted to cheat her and her younger sibling out of the family inheritance...
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.
In Spanish with English subtitles.