The finest tribute I can lavish on this stateside remake of 2002's Argentinean export Nine Queens is that it took me a full hour to remember I had seen the original and reviewed it, no less. (Oh, the shame!) An even greater success on its own, transplanted-to-L.A. terms, Criminal details an alliance of convenience between a master con man (John C. Reilly) and a street-scamming punk (Latino hunk du jour Diego Luna). At first, the fascinating litany of rip-offs both simple and complex is undercut by Reilly's oddly affected line readings; we soon realize, however, that he's playing an inscrutable figure who's trying to sound like a dyed-in-the-wool hustler which adds an intriguing level of vulnerability to the character. By the time Maggie Gyllenhaal arrives on the scene as the spunky, resentful sister of Reilly's larcenous black sheep, the movie has attained an almost perpetual zest a love of the con game that's sincere enough to make us forget how many times we've played it before. Like, um, two years ago.
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