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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.53%
Worth A Look52.94%
Average: 23.53%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 11 user ratings

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
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by MP Bartley

"Dirty, yes; but rotten? No."
4 stars

A comedy almost entirely based on two horrible people can only work with the lightest of touches - and there's barely a fingerprint on this film.

Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) is a conman who is living in luxury on the French Riviera. Residing in a chateau he's able to go about his business uninterrupted as he has the local chief of police (Anton Rodgers) in his pocket, and thus enjoys playing the long game with rich women, extorting thousands of dollars out of them whilst portraying himself as exiled royalty from an unnamed European country, trying to raise funds to "free his people" - understandably, the details tend to be a little sketchy.

His cosy little world is turned upside down however, by the arrival of Freddy Benson (Steve Martin), a down-at-heel scamster, who ekes out a living by hustling vulnerable women for meals and a new wardrobe with a story about his ailing grandmother. At first Freddy is merely an amusement to Lawrence, but when he starts to make waves that might threaten off the big game in town, Lawrence has him thrown out on an arrest warrant. This doesn't go to plan, however, and soon Freddy is back in town, at first teaming up with Lawrence, before the two inevitably end up in competition with each other. The prize for the competition? Well, now's a good time to say that spoilers for a film over 20 years old will now abound, so if you've somehow managed to miss it so far, now would be a good time to step ahead. Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly) is the face of a new soap product and enjoying her new fame in town - she, and the $50,000 that she's earnt, is the target for Lawrence and Freddy.

It's loosely based on Bedtime Story, a Marlon Brando and David Niven film from 1964, but whereas that film has been mostly forgotten about (other than a footnote to this one), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels still holds up a great deal better than other 80's films that get praised ahead of it (I'm looking at you, Ferris. And Bill and Ted). That's mainly because there's a genuinely sharp edge to a lot of the jokes that, in some ways, seem even more near-the-knuckle in today's climate. To trick Janet into handing over her money to him, Freddy masquerades as a war veteran confined to a wheelchair. Granted, Frank Oz and his writers would have no idea how the world situation would be 20 years on, but there's something universally gleefully twisted in what Freddy is doing that is going to resonate whatever the time period. Add to that Lawrence's initial trick of getting Freddy to pretend to be Ruprecht, his mentally-backward younger brother and fellow prince, and you have something that shocks the laughs out of you at times.

The laughs are genuine, however, and the majority of them are teased out by the sublime team up of Martin and Caine, a duo that only in retrospect seems a perfect pairing. Martin as the uncouth scammer is predictably great (his turn as Ruprecht is really quite something), but it's Caine, with a glint in his eye and the smile of a shark, that's the unexpected joy of the film. Caine rarely indulges in his funny bone, which is a shame, as he's got a killer instinct for comic timing and a great way with some of the terrific lines. From barking out insults to Freddy/Ruprecht like, "Do you want the genital cuff?", to his faux-aristocratic playing for rich, dumb American women, Caine is clearly having a great time with the material, a feeling that radiates throughout the film. Caine and Martin spark off each wonderfully well, and if the highlight of the film comes at the midway point (Lawrence poses as the one German doctor who has the cure for Freddy's disability and his eyes literally light up at the sadomasochistic pleasures this affords him), the duo keep the bubbly and spiky nature of the film simmering away to and ending that wraps itself up beautifully.

Deftly directed by Oz, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels packs in around a half dozen good laughs - and by anyone's standard that's a great return. Perhaps the biggest laugh, however, is reserved for the imdb trivia page where you can see just who the film was originally pitched as a vehicle for.

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originally posted: 04/18/12 19:34:07
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User Comments

4/19/12 Sheryl Granholm Underrated. Cleese is amazing. 5 stars
2/04/08 Pamela White Great chemistry but weak plot 4 stars
8/18/05 ES This deserves a rating, its on of Martins best and funniest. 4 stars
12/27/04 mjoc Hilarious. Steve Martin at his best. 5 stars
10/17/02 Charles Tatum Funny but a little long 4 stars
5/18/02 Jenny Tullwartz Doesn't mesh like it should. 3rd quartrer really languishes, but Krazy glue scene best part 3 stars
3/01/02 R.W. Welch Some funny bits but less than you'd expect considering the talent involved. 3 stars
1/10/02 Spyguy2 Micheal Caine whipping Steve Martin's legs is the funniest bit I have ever seen...period. 5 stars
3/14/01 Monday Morning Coulda and SHOULDA been better with Caine & Martin. 3 stars
5/20/00 Steve Kelley Ruprick the Monkey Boy is worth it alone! 5 stars
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  02-Dec-1988 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Frank Oz

Written by
  Dale Launer

  Michael Caine
  Steve Martin
  Glenne Headly
  Anton Rodgers

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