Plot: What’s it about?
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 whenever he needs to, his associates inform of potential new targets. As he returns home 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.
If you ask me, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one of the smartest, most humorous films of all time, with two excellent lead performances. I know it could be seen as dark by some, but I don’t think that is the case, since in a lot of cases, the con men are conning each other, as opposed to innocent victims. The writing is superb and hits moments of brilliance, including some classic sequences like the dinner scene, as well as others. As if the material wasn’t good enough, Steve Martin and Michael Caine lend amazing turns, which elevates the material to an even higher level. Yes, it has some ineffective moments, but on the whole, this is an excellent movie that is well made in all respects. In short, this is an intelligent, well written, and hilarious picture and with this new edition, it gets a most improved treatment. So even if you own the first version, this new one is well worth the upgrade and if you don’t already own it, be glad MGM has put more effort into it than Image did, which is most welcome indeed.
As I am a fan of both men, it is no surprise that I love the work of Steve Martin and Michael Caine in this film, especially when they’re in the same scenes. Thankfully, both men are in most of the film, but even when they’re not, their performances remain likable and quite humorous. The real fun is when they’re both on screen however, as the material allows them to really shine and trust me on this one, they shine and then some. Of course, both men have immense skills in terms of playing underhanded characters and possess great verbal abilities, which are traits that come in handy in a film like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. You can see Martin in such films as The Spanish Prisoner, Bowfinger, The Jerk, and Mixed Nuts, while Caine can be seen in Get Carter, The Cider House Rules, Quills, and Dressed to Kill. The cast also includes Glenne Headly (2 Days in the Valley, Mortal Thoughts), Barbara Harris (Nashville, Peggy Sue Got Married), and Ian McDiarmid (Sleepy Hollow, Return of the Jedi).
Video: How does it look?
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image here is quite good and offers a noticeable improvement over Image’s release, as well as other previous editions. The print looks clean, but shows some small defects, though nothing to be concerned about. The colors have a natural look, so colors are bright, but no juiced and flesh tones are natural also, no problems there. I also had no problems with the contrast, which yields stark and well balanced black levels at all times. This might not be a pristine transfer, but it is a welcome improvement and fans should be most pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
As this is a dialogue fueled picture, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track never gets to flex its muscle, but in this case, that’s a good thing. The audio here is more subtle and refined, which better suits this kind of material. The music has a rich feel, but never overpowers the other elements, while sound effects are clear, but remain natural in scope. The real star here is dialogue, which is crisp & clean at all times, with no volume errors to report. This disc also includes French & Spanish language options, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a solid audio commentary track with director Frank Oz, who as per usual, has a lot of comments about his work. He talks about the production, working with Martin & Caine, and of course, his thoughts on the material & characters. I wouldn’t say this is his best session, but it is a good one and if you’ve enjoyed his prior ones, you should be pleased with this one. This disc also includes a brief behind the scenes featurette, as well as the film’s theatrical and teaser trailers, a nice selection of extras.