Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Favorite Era: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a fantastic comedy starring a brilliant comedian in Steve Martin and an all-around brilliant actor in Michael Caine.  It tells the tale of a bet between small time con man Freddy Benson (Martin) and big time con artist Lawrence Jamieson (Caine) to see who will stick around and fleece the wealth of the French Riviera and who will have to get out of town.

Expertly directed by Frank Oz with a clever script and a fantastic cast, it is one of the all-time great comedies.  Let's take a closer look.
  • The film is basically a remake of a rather bad David Niven/Marlon Brando film called Bedtime Story that plays out more or less the same way.
  • The first scene (as well as the first ten minutes in general) sets up Lawrence and his style impeccably.  Caine is always good (even when the film isn't) and here he plays maybe the most likable slime ball you are ever likely to meet.
  • Steve Martin is the perfect comic foil to Caine's suave, stylish look with the rather cheesy and obvious Freddy.  Martin has always been good at playing sly but dumb guys and here he is just great.
  • Anton Rodgers and Ian MacDiarmid are also fun as Lawrence's accomplices.
  • Steve Martin is also a gifted physical comic as we see when he is in prison trying to remember Lawrence's name.
  • The key to a good comic duo is chemistry and happily, Caine and Martin have tons of it and then some.  They play off each other magnificently, my favorite instance being the setup of their partnership.
  • The team scam they pull is quite funny with Martin giving his role as Caine's rather deranged brother a manic quality that's just priceless.
  • The dissolving of the partnership leads to the main con, taking a very rich young woman (Glenne Headley) for $50,000.  Headley is quite likable in her role, playing a sympathetic character quite well.  The twist with her at the end where she turns out to be another con artist (the one Lawrence is worried Freddy is) is a nice payoff to the film.
  • The manner in which they try to take Janet (Headley) for her money is quite hilarious as Martin poses as a crippled Navy man and Caine acts as a noted German psychologist.  The sheer malice Caine brings to his scenes with Martin during this stretch are hilarious.
  • The twist at the end is great (though a little predictable) and well thought out.  I especially enjoy how Caine goes from his suave voice to his normal speaking voice in the middle of the reveal.  It just fits the man he's playing.
 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was released in December of 1988 and was a reasonable success.  It still holds up today as a classy, funny comedy with a clever script and good acting and directing.  Definitely one to seek out.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.