Two con men try to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress out of $50,000 first.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a good, old-timey (circa 1988) film that ended up surprising me a bit. Back in my marathon heyday, I tended to watch a fair amount of older films, mostly classics that I never got around to watching. A common refrain for me is that the older the film, the slower it is —, that is just the nature of films of the era. Nothing inherently wrong about it, but given the faster-pace of more modern films it can often be a tough pill to swallow.
Watching the trailer for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, I was skeptical. It seems to tick all of those “slow” and “boring” boxes without enough of a hook to keep me interested. Regardless, I ended up watching it anyway, and happily, I found myself laughing along, not paying attention to the pacing of the film. Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) and Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) are terrific characters with a wonderful chemistry together.
Pacing can be an important part to a great film, but it is not the defining characteristic of a great film. Pacing can mask defects, and otherwise gloss over moments that, if you had a second to think about, would probably realize are silly and detract from the story. In this sense, older films are playing a game on difficult mode; needing to grab you by the basics and fundamentals of good story telling. I think that is why, when you come across a good, “classic” movie, it can be ten times better than a great movie today. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is not in the crème de la crème, but it is a solid comedy. A simple premise — con men making a bet on who can cheat $50,000 out of Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly) first — that you easily get swept up in due to the charisma of Martin and Caine, the antics that ensue, and just an overall well-scripted story with a few twists and turns to keep things interesting.
Highly suggest checking this out. Whether you have seen it before and give it a re-watch, or discovering it for the first time, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is sure to deliver some laughs and a good time.
4 out of 5