Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

dirty rotten scoundrels IMDb

This is another movie I can’t believe I went so long without seeing. I love Steve Martin as much as Ben loves Billy Crystal, which is to say that I will watch just about anything he’s in. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is Martin at his best, working in tandem with Michael Caine to great effect.

Caine stars as Lawrence Jamieson, a suave playboy con artist who wines and dines rich ladies and takes them for all their worth. His ruse is put in jeopardy with the arrival of American huckster Freddy Benson (Martin), who is looking for easy marks to make a quick buck. Unable to get rid of Benson, Jamieson takes him under his wing. His attempts at sophisticating Benson are a failure, and the two come to an agreement: the first one to con $50,000 from a selected mark (Glenne Headley) can stay in the French Rivera town where Jamieson has set up shop.

The plot isn’t complicated, and you’ll probably guess the ending about halfway through, but this is still a delightfully funny movie. Caine plays the perfect straight man to Martin’s goofball, and their chemistry on screen is great. Both get to ad lib a fair bit and do a great job of it. Glenne Headley holds her own against both men, which is no easy feat.

Again, this isn’t the most sophisticated comedy ever written (a major sequence involves Martin scaring off Caine’s romantic marks by pretending to be his slow witted brother Ruprecht), but it’s damn funny. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is itself a remake, and I think it’s a strong candidate to be remade again.

Rating: B+

This is such a fun movie. This is Steve Martin at his best, but also Michael Caine is able to find his comedic timing too. Caine had previously been better known as more of an action hero from films like Get Carter or The Italian Job, making a film like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was somewhat of a risk for him. It turned out great though, Martin and Caine have terrific chemistry and they are well supported by Glenne Headley as the conmen’s potential target.

Caine plays Lawrence Jamieson, a con man living in the French Riviera. He makes a living swindling rich socialites out of their fortune by pretending to be a suave freedom fighter for his imaginary war torn country. While he is aboard a train one day, he meets Freddy Benson (Martin), an American tourist who brags about how he just swindled a meal out of one of the ladies on their train. Freddy announces he is on his way to Lawrence’s home town to try his con act on some of the girls there. Lawrence cannot allow Freddy to scare away all of the ladies in his home town, as he wants to target many of them himself. The two eventually make a wager that whoever can swindle $50,000 from a young socialite, Janet Colgate (Glenne Headley), will be able to stay in town and the other will have to leave and never comes back. There are some great twists in this film that the story does a good job of hiding until the very end.

The chemistry between this cast is great. Caine and Martin are hilarious together. I really love the scenes where Freddy is briefly taken under Lawrence’s wing and is forced to play his mentally handicapped brother, Ruprecht. Martin as Ruprecht is by far the highlight of this film.

This is a very funny film with a solid plot that keeps you guessing. The two leads and their supporting cast are having a lot of fun together and director Frank Oz does a great job of utilizing all of their talents, especially Caine and Martin.

Rating: B+

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