Friday, September 13, 2019

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

DirecTV had a free preview of the Epix package of channels over the summer, which gave me the chance to DVR several more recent films. Among them is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is going to be on Epix2 on Sunday morning at 9:50 AM, and is also available on DVD if you don't have the Epix package.

Michael Caine, looking almost unrecognizable with his hair slicked back, plays Lawrence Jamieson, a British man living in a ritzy town on the French Riviera where he plies his trade of fleecing rich women out of their money. He's got the help of the local police chief, Inspector Andre (Anton Rodgers), at least in the form of looking the other way and not doing anything about it. His latest scam has him pretending to be a prince trying to get money out of Fanny (Barbara Harris).

On a train back from depositing money in his Swiss bank account, Lawrence meets Freddy Benson (Steve Martin). Freddy is also a con artist, but much less suave than Lawrence. Lawrence has heard of a criminal called "the Jackal", but doesn't know anything about the Jackal's identity, only that apparently the Jackal is about to set up shop in the same town where Lawrence has been working. The town isn't big enough for two con artists, and Lawrence doesn't really like Freddy anyway, so Lawrence gets Freddy on a plane out of town.

The only problem is that Freddy meets Fanny on the plane. So now Freddy has something to blackmail Lawrence with, which he's bound to do. Freddy persuades Lawrence to try to teach him how to be more elegant, and the two pull off another con. But Lawrence still doesn't care for Freddy, so the two make a wager. They'll find a new mark, and the one of them to con her out of $50,000 will get to stay in town while the other is forced to leave.

They soon meet a suitable mark in Janet Colgate (Glenne Headley), an American soap heiress. Freddy tries to pass himself off as an American navy officer paralyzed from the waist down with some sort of mental condition, needing $50,000 to see a specialist to get better. Lawrence passes himself off as Dr. Emil Schaffhusen, a Liechtensteinian doctor who could treat Freddy for that $50,000. So the game is on.

Or, at least, it is until the two find out that Janet is not in fact a soap heiress. She's the "soap queen" because she won a contest in the States, and is only on an all-expenses paid trip presumably promoting an American detergent. In fact, the only way she could get the $50,000 is to sell off a bunch of her assets. On top of this, it doesn't help that Freddy is beginning to find himself falling in love with her, while Lawrence has a strict thing against bilking people who can't afford to be the victim.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a fun little movie with a lot of twists and turns, aided enormously by the two leading men. Both of them fit their parts extremely well, Caine as an elegant con and Martin with his more stereotypically American brashness. Headley is also a treat as the woman between them. It's a shame that she died much too young. The movie is also helped by the gorgeous location shooting and a really nice score.

I can most definitely recommend Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

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