Plot: Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) has amassed a sizable fortune, a plush estate, and lives a more than comfortable life, but his line of work is well, untraditional. You see, he meets women with wealth and using his skills of persuasion, he drums up a convincing tale of woe and soon afterwards, bilks them of a large amount of cash & valuables. It might be illegal, but he has the local authorities on his good side and as such, Jamieson rules his roost and his associates inform of potential new targets. As he returns home via train from one session, he runs into Freddy Benson (Steve Martin), a working class hustler who manages to earn a free dinner & pocket cash, by conning a woman in the dining area. It seems like Freddy wants to move in on Lawrence’s territory, but Jamieson has a plan and soon enough, Freddy is arrested, released, and on a plane back home. But on the plane, Freddy learns about Jamieson’s true line of work and unless Lawrence will train him to become a master con, he’ll ruin the game in the area, which Lawrence cannot have happen. The two simply can’t get along and so whichever can clean out the target can eliminate the other, leaving the fertile area for a single hustler.
Entertainment Value: This is a super smart, always hilarious, and often savage comedy that lets Steve Martin and Michael Caine engage in an outlandish showdown packed with comedic twists and turns. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a remake of Bedtime Story, but while some tributes are paid to the original, the manic tone and improvised feel of this version make it feel fresh and unique. The humor here is razor sharp and varied, with sight gags, physical comedy, and of course, a wealth of verbal barbs and quotable lines to sift through. I’ve read that a lot of the dialogue was improvised, but it feels so polished and on point, with a smooth cadence throughout. This is thanks in large part to the cast, especially Steve Martin and Michael Caine, who make the dialogue as smooth as silk, never missing a beat. I’ve seen the film several times and I still pick up on lines or little mannerisms that I missed before, so Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the kind of comedy that holds up and perhaps even improves on repeat sessions. The pace is brisk, the laughs are constant, and the performances are masterful, leaving us to give Dirty Rotten Scoundrels a high recommendation.
The leads here are simply perfect for the roles, as Steve Martin and Michael Caine shine here and ensure that every scene is on point. Martin has the more over the top, rough around the edges character, while Caine is of course the refined, suave gentleman, so the casting is ideal and both are right at home in these roles. I love that the film is able to give each of the leads ample opportunities to showcase their talents, both on their own and in shared scenes. As humorous as Martin and Caine are in their individual moments, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels really comes to life once the triangle kicks in and the two go head to head, with Glenne Headly in the middle. The constant one upping of each other and mind games is nothing short of hilarious, as both really go for it in the roles and the movie greatly benefits from that enthusiasm. Headly is fantastic as well and some memorable, very humorous moments, but it is Martin and Caine who drive this show, without question. The cast also includes Ian McDiarmid, Frances Conroy, and Barbara Harris, while Frank Oz directs.
The Disc: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels returns to Blu-ray via Shout Factory, who has spun up a new 2k scan of the movie as part of their Shout Select release. The result is a nice step up over the previous Blu-ray release, as the visuals look sharper and cleaner, so the upgrade is worthwhile. The print shows little signs of age related concerns, so detail is able to shine through and while perhaps not as eye popping as some HD presentations, the movie looks quite great in this treatment. New to the extras for this disc is an over twenty minute interview with writer Dale Launer, who shares a wealth of behind the scenes tidbits that should delight fans. The supplements also include Frank Oz’ interesting audio commentary track, a promotional featurette, and two of the film’s trailers.