tek's rating: ¾

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (PG)
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This came out in 1988, but I'm really not sure whether or not I ever saw it before watching it on DVD in 2019. I should mention that it's a remake of the 1964 film "Bedtime Story," which I haven't seen. And it was remade in 2019 as "The Hustle," which I also haven't seen.

Anyway... Michael Caine plays a con artist named Lawrence Jamieson, who plies his trade in the village of Beaumont-sur-Mer, on the French Riviera. His accomplices include a police inspector named Andre (Anton Rodgers, whom I know from May to December), and a manservant named Arthur (Ian McDiarmid). One day, Lawrence is on a train, where he observes a man named Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) con a woman into buying him lunch in the dining car. Later, Freddy shows up in Lawrence's room, and boasts about having conned the woman (unaware that Lawrence himself is a con artist). When Lawrence learns that Freddy's going to Beaumont-sur-Mer to try his luck at conning other women, Lawrence convinces him to try a different town. However, Freddy soon shows up in Lawrence's territory, anyway, so Lawrence arranges for Andre to arrest him. Freddy calls Lawrence, the one person he knows in town, to ask for his help (unaware of Lawrence's involvement in his arrest). Lawrence gets him out of jail, and convinces him to fly back to the United States. But on the plane, Freddy meets a woman named Fanny Eubanks (Barbara Harris), whom Lawrence had previously conned (a fact of which she is still unaware). She saw Freddy and Lawrence shake hands before Freddy boarded the plane, and when she talks to Freddy about Lawrence, he realizes that Lawrence is a far superior conman, and he later show's up at Lawrence's villa. He blackmails him into training him to improve his game, lest he should call Fanny and tell her she'd been conned by Lawrence. And so, Lawrence reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Lawrence had heard about another con artist called "the Jackal," who was operating somewhere in the area. I'm fairly sure that when he first met Freddy, he thought there was no way Freddy was the Jackal, since he wasn't nearly skilled enough. However, it seems to me that at some point Lawrence started talking to his accomplices as if he actually did think Freddy was the Jackal, and I have no idea when that change of mind may have happened, or why. Or, maybe he was just referring to him that way in jest, I'm not sure. (I don't recall him ever talking to Freddy about the matter.) But honestly, I have to say that for part of the movie, I wondered if Freddy was only pretending to be such an amateur hustler in order to con Lawrence, and that he really would turn out to be the Jackal, but I eventually started to seriously doubt that.

Well, we see Lawrence and Freddy pulling some cons together, but eventually Freddy decides to work on his own. Lawrence doesn't want him as competition in the same town, so they agree to a bet. They select a woman whom they'll each try to con out of $50,000, and the first one to do so wins. The loser will have to leave town for good. The woman they select is an American named Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly), who has just arrived in town. Freddy pretends to be a Naval officer who lost the use of his legs for a psychological reason, which he hopes might be cured by a very expensive (fictitious) psychiatrist from Liechtenstein, named Dr. Emil Schaffhausen. Lawrence counters that move by pretending to be Dr. Schaffhausen. And the whole situation turns into not just a competition to get Janet's money, but also a sort of love triangle.

I don't want to reveal any more of the plot, but I will say I found the ending (or I should say, the climax) fairly predictable, but still entertaining. But what happens after that, I didn't see coming, and I thought it was even better. Anyway, the whole movie was pretty amusing, ridiculous fun.


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