Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 1988 comedy starring Michael Caine (what movie has he NOT been in?) and Steve Martin as two con-men that are competing against each other to con a rich woman (Glen Headley) out of her $50,000 winnings.
Caine plays a con man that preys on the corrupt rich people of the French Riviera when he learns of a rival con artist called "The Jackal" is working in his town of Beaumont-sur-Mer and is also preying on wealthy people.
This is when Steve Martin's character Freddy Benson shows up. Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) is convinced that this bumbling American fool is the Jackal and Caine wants him out of town so that he doesn't cause problems with his way of life. Benson is arrested and put on the next plane out of town, but he ends meeting one of Jamieson's former marks and figures out that Caine is also a con man.
This leads to Martin's character confronts Caine and forces Caine into teaching him how to be a proper con-man, at the expense of Martin's silence. Caine's plan is to use Martin as he mentally handicapped ward named Ruprecht. Caine then seduces wealthy women into giving him money and then when the con is over, it's Martin's job to scare them away. Caine never ends up paying Martin for the con and after a bit, Martin decides to go off on his own.
Caine, not happy with this idea, because he believes that both of them can't survive in the town with the limited amount of wealthy people, proposes a deal with Martin. The first to con $50,000 out of a person that randomly selected will get to stay, while the other leaves. They choose Janet Colgate, played to perfection by Glenne Headley, who is travelling the French Riviera after winning a contest.
The con is this: Martin is posing as a U.S. Naval officer who cannot walk after seeing his ex-fiance cheating on him with Deney Terrio (Dance U.S.A) and he needs to borrow $50,000 so that he can see the famous psychologist Emil Shauffhausen for treatment so that he may walk again. Caine discovers what Martin is doing and falls in with the pair, claiming to be the famous psychologist and that Janet can pay the fee directly to him.
Caine finds out that Headley is not rich and that she has to sell off her stuff in order to pay for Martin's treatment. Angry at Martin, but touched by Headley's kind nature, Caine calls off the bet. Martin, not happy with the way things have turned out, ups the ante. The first to take her to bed is the winner and the other has to leave. Caine accepts the bet, but decides that he isn't going to go along with the idea of bedding Headley.
His idea is to get her out of town so that Martin can't win the bet and that Caine's lavish lifestyle can continue without any more interruptions. Martin sees this as his chance to best the uppity Caine and he tries to have Caine kidnapped by some British sailors, only for it to backfire on him as Caine is a Royal Navy Reserves officer. Caine has the sailors take Martin to a party to keep him occupied while Caine takes Headley and puts her on a plane back to the U.S.
Instead of getting on a plane, Headley returns to her hotel room where she meets Martin. Surprised at his fortune, they decide to consumate their relationship, Caine finds out about this and is getting ready to admit defeat when Headley comes over to his place, crying and carrying on about how Martin stole all her money. Caine gives her $50,000 and again, puts her on a plane back to America. Martin is arrested for stealing and while they're waiting on the tarmac to see her off, Headley races back and says that she can't keep the money. She hands a couple of bags over to them and gets back on the plane.
It turns out that Headley is the Jackal and she conned them out of their money. Martin is pissed, Caine is amused. The film doesn't end there. While sitting out back of Caine's house, Headley returns and explains that she has been running cons for a while, but she had the most fun with Martin and Caine and she has a new con she's running and she wants them to be partners.
This movie shows Martin and Caine at the peak of their professions. Both of them work well together and the situations that they get in aren't over the top. The humor is built off of how different the two characters are. One of them refined, the other the almost typical "loud mouth American", unrefined and embarassing. The first two-thirds of the movie is them playing off each other, comedian versus professional thespian. And it works. It's a natural pairing and it's a shame that there wasn't a follow up to this movie.
Both of them are in their comfort zones in this movie. Martin with his crazy antics, unable to walk or playing Ruprecht the handicapped, and Caine as an aristocrat, a well polished gentleman with connections and an answer for everything. Glenne Headley beats them both to the punch with her damsel in distress routine and in the end, both of them end up paying for it.
This movie is a must see, just for the comic hijinks. Set in a small town in the French Riviera, the location is just absolutely beautiful and Frank Oz is still a great director. One of the most underrated directors around. Take a moment to watch this movie, you will not be disappointed.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
PG | 1h 50min | Comedy, Crime | 14 December 1988 (USA)
Two con men try to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress out of $50,000 first.
Director: Frank Oz
Writers: Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro
Stars: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly