Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Black comedy, USA, 1988; D: Frank Oz, S: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly, Anton Rodgers, Barbara Harris, Ian McDiarmid

English gentleman Lawrence lives in the French Riviera earning money as a gigolo, often "accidentally" telling rich ladies he is a prince of a far away country who needs help. The ladies take pity on him and give him money for support. But when another con artist shows up, American Freddy, squeezing money out of ladies with lies about his sick grandmother who needs an operation, Lawrence starts feeling endangered. As soon as they meet, they start framing each other. In the end, they make a bet: the one who double crosses the American girl Janet and gets 50.000 $ from her first, stays. While Lawrence plays a doctor and Freddy a handicapped, she double crosses them both.

Frank Oz always approaches his films with a rustic simpleness, but often gets a very satisfying result. Comedy "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a funny and amusing film, a remake that is better than the original "Bedtime Story", with a strong screenplay, a solid direction and great actors Steve Martin and Michael Caine, who was even nominated for a Golden Globe as best actor in a musical or comedy. But when Martin's character Freddy starts pretending to be a handicapped man in a wheelchair, the humor becomes too tasteless, morbid and vulgar at moments, which reduce the film's greatness. Not that even that part doesn't have it's moments, since it plays out as a duel between two gigolos over who will gain the sympathy of a young girl first, yet the scene where Lawrence is pushing the situation by whipping Freddy's legs - who has to pretend he doesn't feel anything despite incredible pain - is simply too masochistic to really be funny. Still, Oz then masterfully egregious turns the situation by putting a neat plot twist at the end that gives the relationship between three of them a new context, reciprocating for the most political incorrectness throughout the film, even though it has it's sharpness on it's own.


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