Tag Archives: Michael Caine

The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Plotting to kidnap Churchill.

During World War II Nazi Colonel Radl (Robert Duvall) is hired to study the feasibility of kidnapping British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and bringing him back to Germany. At first he considers it an impossible task, but then learns that Churchill is set to visit an airfield in an English village where one of their German sleeper agents resides. He then hires paratrooper Kurt Steiner (Michael Caine) to lead the mission inside the village, but the plan quickly unravels forcing the soldiers to make a daring escape before the allied troops arrive.

This marks the final film directed by John Sturges who was noted for helming his share of action flicks and westerns. The film’s handsome production offers plush scenery, on-location shooting and some wonderful bird’s-eye-views. One could enjoy the movie on this level alone as well as its ability to focus more the actual planning of the mission than the fighting. It has a sort of behind-the-scenes approach to all of the thought and effort that goes into the strategy of war as opposed to the physical on the ground aspect. The film also takes a surprisingly humanistic approach to the Nazis portraying them more as regular human beings who just so happen to be fighting on the wrong side as opposed to the robotic, demonic persona that they’re given in most other war films.

The film’s faults lies in that it’s too leisurely paced. The planning stage allows for some interesting insight, but could’ve been trimmed while the action is sudden and jarring and only popping up near the end when it should’ve been introduced earlier. There is never any real danger to Churhill as the plan goes awry long before he arrives. Since the whole thing was fictional anyways then why not have the soldiers surround whatever building Churchill was in and thus making it seem at least that he might really get captured before having their plan unravel. The way it gets done here the viewer’s energy is strangely geared at seeing the bad guys escape capture, which is off-putting as is the gimmicky ending that makes everything that is shown previously seem insignificant.

The cast is impressive, but mostly underused. Duvall, who speaks with a dubious German accent, takes up most of the screen-time during the first half and then pretty much disappears altogether during the second part. Caine, who doesn’t speak with a German accent, or at least any that is detectable, seems stiff and uncomfortable in an uninteresting role that does not take advantage of his talents. Apparently he was originally offered the role of Liam Devlin who was a member of the IRA, but Caine refused it due to his personal political beliefs and was thus given the Steiner role on the rebound.

Larry Hagman, mostly known for his TV work, gets an amusingly showy bit as the inept Colonel Potts who tries to lead the US Army Rangers on a mission to rescue the village’s town folk who are held hostage by the soldiers. While the part takes full advantage of Hagman’s comic ability to play a hyper, emotionally frazzled character it seems out of place in this type of movie and almost turns the film dangerously close to becoming an ill-advised comedy.

Donald Sutherland ends up becoming the scene stealer as Liam Devlin who with his hair dyed red really looks Irish and speaks with an authentic sounding Irish accent. The character also has an unusual ability to whistle and then move his finger in a way that subdues an aggressive dog by seemingly putting it under a sort-of hypnotic spell. Whether anyone could really do this, or is there is some truth in what the character does here I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Release: December 25, 1976

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Sturges

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Hand (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: He loses his hand.

Jon Lansdale (Michael Caine) is a gifted comic book illustrator who loses his hand in a freak car accident. They are unable to locate the missing limb at the scene and therefore unable to reattach, so he’s fitted with a prosthetic one made of metal. In the meantime the severed one goes on a murderous rampage killing all those that Jon has a problem with.

The film, which is based on the novel ‘The Lizard’s Tail’ by Marc Brandell, can best be described as an experimental horror and to some degree is quite intriguing. I liked the psychological subtext showing the hand as being a symbol to Jon’s subconscious and acting out the anger that he felt from others, but ordinarily too reluctant to do anything about. The story conveys a very universal message that we are in many ways two people, the one we choose to display to the world and the other more politically incorrect one that we try to hide from it.

Had it remained more on a subtle, intellectual side it might’ve worked, but showing the severed hand as much as it does is its biggest downfall. The scenes showing the hand strangling people looks quite tacky as instead of seeming like the victim is trying to pull the hand off of their throat it looks more like they are trying to hold it in place so it doesn’t fall off. It also brings up all sorts of unanswered questions like how is the hand able to move around so quickly and sneak inside buildings and cars and where does it get the strength to strangle people, or jump up to their throats when all the muscles connected to it have been severed away.

It would’ve worked better had the hand not been shown at all and kept a mystery as to what was causing the murders and then only at the end expose the hand as being the culprit, which would’ve made Jon’s final confrontation with it much more startling and impactful. An even better idea would’ve been to have the metal hand act as the one that does the killing since this one resembled Freddy Kruegar’s and looked far creepier.

Oliver Stone’s direction is interesting especially his technique of going from color to black and white and then back again, but the story drags on longer than it should and seems to give too much away. The twist at the end is great because it’s actually a logical one that makes perfect sense, but then at the last second Stone sells-out by throwing in tacky ‘second twist’ that is nothing but a gimmick that makes the whole thing seem too commercial.

On the acting side Caine is adequate, but I found his wavy hair far more fascinating than the hand and I especially enjoyed seeing how progressively disheveled it gets the more insane that he becomes. Andrea Marcovicci is standout as his wife. Initially I thought she was too young to play his spouse as there was a 16 year difference between the two, but her very expressive face particularly her blue eyes and the way it conveys fear helps heighten the suspense.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 24, 1981

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Oliver Stone

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Peeper (1976)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for client’s daughter.

Leslie C. Tucker (Michael Caine) is a British private eye working in L.A. who gets hired on by an eccentric client named Anglich (Michael Constantine) to find his long lost daughter that was born 24 years ago and now resides he believes somewhere in Hollywood. Tucker tries following the skimpy clues and this leads him to a beautiful woman named Ellen (Natalie Wood) who he believes just may be that daughter and not even know it, but the closer he gets to some answers the more questions he has to tackle as well as being chased by a pair of hoods (Timothy Carey, Don Calfa) who are out to stop him.

This film is based on a novel by Keith Laumer with a screenplay written by W.D. Richter and directed by Peter Hyams. With such talented people involved you’d think this would’ve been a winner, but it bombed at the box office and I’m not completely sure why. The ingredients are there, but the oversaturation of private eye parodies during the ‘70s could’ve gotten this one lost in the shuffle.

The film though is filled with snappy dialogue and some highly amusing voice-over narration by the Tucker character. There are also unique scenes including a car chase that takes place amidst a major traffic jam and a cool foot chase sequence down a long, winding spiral staircase. I also loved the scene where Tucker is trapped in a car with an angry dog outside only for him to miraculously turn-the-tables on the animal where he gets outside while the dog ends up stuck in the vehicle. The best moment though is at the beginning when actor Guy Marks does his impersonation of Humphrey Bogart while standing in a dark alley and reciting the opening credits instead of having them shown on screen.

As much as I love Michael Caine I found him to be wrong for this role. If you’re going to do a light parody of old school private eye films then you have to cast someone in the lead that would reflect to some degree Bogart. It certainly doesn’t have to be an impersonator, but someone that is from Brooklyn and has a New York mentality as opposed to a transplanted Englishman with a British accent.

Wood is equally miscast. This was her first theatrical feature in 7 years and she turned down a role in The Towering Inferno to do this one and I’m not sure why. The part is rather small and offers little range in either acting or character development and with everything else that goes on in the story she ends up getting forgotten though it does have a foreboding quality in that the final segment involves her on a boat and near water.

The mystery itself ends up being the worst thing. It’s too intricate and filled with so many rapidly paced twists that it becomes almost impossible to follow. The action is enough to keep it interesting, but as a compelling plot it fails. I also wasn’t too crazy about the title. The working title was ‘Fat Chance’, which I didn’t like either, but peeper is slang for a private eye who takes a lot of photographs, which this detective doesn’t do at all.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 6, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Hyams

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

One Wild Moment (1977)

one wild moment 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Fling with friend’s daughter.

Pierre and Jacques (Jean-Pierre Marielle, Victor Lanoux) are longtime friends who decide to take a vacation together along the French Riviera and both bring along their 17-year-old daughters. One night Pierre and Victor’s daughter Francoise (Agnes Soral) attend a late night wedding party and the revelry and energy of the moment culminates with them having a tryst along the beach. Although Pierre has feelings for Francoise and vice-versa he wants to keep it from going any further for fear that it will jeopardize his friendship with Victor. Francoise though wants it to continue and the two quarrel with their mixed feelings as they ponder telling Victor about it.

Although this is not a great film it is still far superior to its American remake Blame it on Rio. For one thing it works more as a drama while the remake was played strictly for laughs. The dialogue has more of a realistic conversational quality and the characters are better rounded and more dimensional. The structure is  leisurely paced given it a day-in-the-life feel without having every scene forced to conform to contrived comedy like in the other one. The scene where the two make love has much more of a natural quality to it and less stagey. I also enjoyed more of an emphasis on subtly where the characters are not compelled to verbally describe their feelings, but instead it relies on their facial expressions, which is much more powerful.

Marielle gives a far better performance than Michael Caine did in the equivalent role who seemed awkward, stiff and uncomfortable throughout. The rift that the character has with his daughter Martine (Christine Dejoux) gets better fleshed out here while in the remake it is only briefly touched on. I also thought it was interesting that at one point Marielle’s character slaps his daughter during an argument when she comes back well after her curfew, which doesn’t get shown in the American film and I presume this is because of Hollywood’s concern that it might make the character less appealing as they always want to make their protagonists are wholly likable and politically correct, but in the process it also makes them less real.

The two daughters are much more believable and like young women ready to enter adulthood instead of a middle-aged man’s sexual fantasy like in the other one. I also found it amusing how when Francoise tells her father about her tryst he doesn’t immediately become upset about it like in the American film where sexual mores are more stringent, but only after she tells him it was with a man over 40.

Thankfully there is also no silly side-story involving one of the men’s wives having an affair with the other, which was the dumbest part about the remake and in fact there is no wife character here at all. The only real problem with this version is its abrupt ending that leaves open all sorts of loose endings and is quite unsatisfying and becomes unfortunately a major mark against it.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated R

Director: Claude Berri

Studio: Quartet Films

Available: VHS

Blame it on Rio (1984)

blame it on rio 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex with friend’s daughter.

Victor (Joseph Bologna) is going through a messy divorce and in order to escape from the stress he invites his friend Matthew (Michael Caine) to join him and his daughter Jennifer (Michelle Johnson) on a trip to Rio de Janeiro. Initially Matthew was to bring along his wife Karen (Valerie Harper), but at the last minute she bails out, so instead he takes his daughter Nicole (Demi Moore) who is also Jennifer’s best friend. During the trip Jennifer’s long dormant feelings for Matthew come to a head and the two end up having a fling. Matthew sees this as a secret one-night-stand as he doesn’t want it to jeopardize his long friendship with Victor, but Jennifer wishes for it to blossom into a love affair and even considers, much to Matthew’s reluctance, informing her father about it.

The film, which has been the last theatrical feature to date to be directed by the legendary Stanley Donen, has a zesty start that features soothing music, luscious scenery and sharp dialogue. Unfortunately it goes downhill from there with the third act being the real problem. Instead of becoming an interesting character study and analyzing whether this otherwise strong friendship could survive such a shocking event it instead veers off into silliness by entering in a crazy twist of Mathew’s wife having a secret affair with Victor, which didn’t seem realistic or believable and cements the whole thing as being nothing more than a dumb, shallow lightweight comedy.

The usually reliable Caine is miscast and his big Harry Caray-like glasses become almost a distraction. His costar Bologna is the one who steals it in a role nicely attuned to his brash, hothead persona.

The weakest link though is Johnson who despite looking great topless clearly has very little acting talent. Her character is poorly defined and written by two middle-aged men who were out-of-touch with the younger generation and had no idea how they ticked.  At the beginning she behaves too much like a child and then suddenly when she gets it on with Matthew she is like an out-of-control sensuous vamp, which made the character come off like two different people altogether. The fact that she shows no apprehension at all in having sex with Matthew who is much older made little sense as I would think that any normal person  would feel nervous and despite the attraction even some reluctance. She also shows no concern for how stressed the whole thing made Matthew feel, which unintentionally made her appear quite selfish.

Moore would’ve been much better in Johnson’s role and in many ways sexier. I had to chuckle a bit because in Leonard Maltin’s review of this film he mentions that Demi seemed ‘intimidated’ during her topless scene at the beach, which is actually an understatement as she looks downright uncomfortable, which in turn makes the viewer feel the same way.

This film is the American remake of the French comedy One Wild Moment, which came out six years earlier and will be reviewed later this week.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 17, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Stanley Donen

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Gambit (1966)

gambit 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Foolproof plan has holes.

Harry (Michael Caine) is an international cat burglar looking to make his biggest steal yet. He recruits dance girl Nicole (Shirley Maclaine) to pose as his wife and with the help of some makeup and a different hairstyle made to resemble the late wife of reclusive millionaire Shabandar (Herbert Lom). The idea is to use this uncanny resemblance to get Shabandar’s attention who will then invite them up to his reclusive mansion. While Shabandar remains entranced with this woman Harry will use the time to steal an expensive statue that is in Shabandar’s home. Unfortunately Harry fails to factor in the human element, which sends his ‘foolproof’ plan into disarray.

This movie is fun most of the way and great escapism for a slow evening. The novel twist of showing how the plan should work, which takes up the first part and then showing what really happens is quite amusing. The movie works almost as a parody to all those slick heist movies and spy films that always have elaborate schemes, but usually overlook the human element in the process and if anything I wished they had played this up even more.

Maclaine is a delight and for the first 30 minutes doesn’t utter a single word. She has always been good as vulnerable characters and here is almost child-like. The contrasting personalities and verbal exchanges between her and Caine are amusing and something that I wished had also been played up a bit more.

The real problem is the blossoming romance between the two that doesn’t make any sense. The two know each other for only a couple of days and yet somehow ‘fall madly in love’ despite the fact that Harry is very rude and detached towards Nicole the whole time.  Harry also finds Nicole to be quite irritating and even explicitly tells her as much, so why he would suddenly fall for her is just as ridiculous. The idea, which is quite prevalent in 60’ movies, that two single people of the opposite sex must become a couple by the end of the movie is quite contrived and mechanical and in some ways diminishes the story by always forcing a happy ending even when it is not natural or needed.

There are a few other loopholes that hurts the story as well. One of them is while Harry is inside Shandabar’s home he opens up a statue and reaches in to take out the equipment needed to for the crime, but how was he able to do this? Did he sneak into Shandar’s home at some earlier point and put the statue there and if so how was it not detected by Shandabar? This is not explained, which seriously affects the credibility. There is another moment later on where Nicole sneaks back into Shandabar’s home while Harry is committing the robbery, but it is never explained how she was able to do that since there were guards everywhere, which required Harry earlier to go to elaborate means to do it himself.

Spoiler Warning!!!

The twist ending, which has Harry returning the original statue to Shandabar, but keeping the copy of it and using it to resell to the gullible public who thinks it’s the original is kind of cool. However, when Harry smashes the statue replica to pieces in an effort to show Nicole that he has ‘reformed’ from his criminal ways and retain her affections I knew immediately that there must have be even more statue copies hidden somewhere else, which there is, because there was no way his friend Emile would have taken something like that as lightly as he does otherwise.

End of Spoiler Warning!

gambit 1

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Ronald Neame

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 1 & 2), Blu-ray (Region B), Amazon Instant Video

Woman Times Seven (1967)

woman times seven 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gotta love Shirley MacLaine.

Much like with Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Vittorio De Sica directs a collage of stories all centering on a different female character and all played by the same actress this time being Shirley MacLaine who is fabulous. In fact she is so good that her famous male co-stars get badly upstaged and their presence almost becomes transparent.

The first story is entitled ‘Funeral Procession’ and deals with MacLaine playing the character of Paulette who is grieving over the recent death of her husband. As they are walking behind the hearse that is carrying her husband to his gravesite her friend Jean (Peter Sellers) uses this moment to proposition her for a weekend of sex and fun at an isolated getaway. The irony in this one is amusing and De Sica makes great use of nuance particularly the way everyone tries to avoid the messy puddles they come upon during the procession.

‘Amateur Night’ is the second segment and this one deals with Maria Theresa (MacLaine) coming home early from a vacation only to find her husband Giorgio (Rossano Brazzi) in bed with her best friend. She becomes so upset that she runs out of the house and into a group of prostitutes who lend a sympathetic ear as well as concocting some revenge. The interplay of the prostitutes is quite amusing and I loved watching all the different items that she throws at Giorgio during her rage, but the final payoff on this one could have been better.

MacLaine plays Linda in the third segment, which is entitled ‘Two Against One’. This is where she takes two competing suitors (Vittorio Gassman, Clinton Greyn) up to her apartment and reads them poems while she is completely naked. This segment is a bit forced and the attempts at satirizing the artsy-fartsy crowd is strained, but the creative ways De Sica cover-ups MacLaine’s otherwise naked body, so the viewer never sees anything explicit is amusing.

‘Super Simone’ makes up the fourth story and deals with Edith (MacLaine) becoming jealous because her writer husband Rik (Lex Barker) seems more infatuated with the female character in the book that he is writing than with her. Her wild attempts to get his attention backfires as he starts to think that she is going insane and even brings in a psychiatrist (Robert Morley) to take her away. The story here is slightly contrived, but MacLaine with a short bob haircut is adorable and the foot chase at the end along some apartment rooftops is visually engaging.

MacLaine gives an hilarious over-the-top performance in the fifth segment entitled ‘At the Opera’ dealing with a rich woman who becomes enraged when she finds out that another woman will be wearing the same dress that she will to an exclusive opera. The satirical jabs at the rich are on-target, but it loses steam at the end.

The weakest segment of them all that is barely even funny is the sixth one entitled ‘Suicides’. This is where a young couple (MacLaine, Alan Arkin) decide to commit suicide as a form of vague political protest, but then both chicken out at the end.

The seventh and final segment is entitled ‘Snow’ and deals with a married woman who becomes intrigued by a handsome stranger (Michael Caine) who follows her around the city streets, but who may not be who he seems. Most of the time movies like these have the final story be a strong one, but this one is strangely subdued making the film end with a whimper instead of the bang that it should. This segment is also novel because Caine barely even utters one word of dialogue and becomes completely wasted in the process.

Overall this is fun lightweight entertainment with a great chance to see MacLaine’s wide acting ability and different hairstyles and looks.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released:  June 27, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix Streaming

Noises Off (1992)

noises off 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Behind-the-scenes discord.

An eclectic group of actors put on a play that they take on tour. The play is a sort of door slamming British farce that is full of innuendos and misunderstandings and the film captures them during one particular scene of that play. It follows them as they rehearse that scene and then perform it live to an audience. It also shows the behind the scenes discord that develops between the cast and how this affects the performance of the scene, which culminates in a completely disastrous showing in Cleveland.

This should have been a really fun movie. It’s certainly an originally structured idea and it is slickly handled. It brings back the days of screwball comedy where things were funny just for the sake of being funny. Everything is contained and nothing is out of place or crude. In some ways it’s a refreshing change of pace.

The cast is certainly game and perfect for this type of comedy. Christopher Reeve and John Ritter come off best. Reeve seems to be playing his Clark Kent character only to a higher degree. Ritter does his Jack Tripper routine not only with the physical side, but also the nuance. His character tries very hard to be politically correct and it is amusing watching him never able to get to the point.

The film offers some light satire into the whole stage production process. Everything from the fragile temperaments of the actors to the high strung director is examined. It also takes some good shots at the plays themselves and how these stage comedies always seem to have such a high reliance on extreme coincidences.

There are some good laughs, but after a while it becomes a bit too much and exhausting to watch. The jokes and gags come so fast that if you blink you will miss some. There is also too much reliance on the frantic side of comedy, which eventually starts to lose its cuteness. The characters are placid and so are the situations. There is also the redundancy factor of having to see the same scene done over and over.

The end result is meticulously choreographed tripe and as silly as the play it seems to be mocking. It also has a glaring factual error. Michael Caine, the play’s director, talks about all the cities they have been too. He mentions Cairo, Missouri as one. There is a Cairo in Illinois but none in Missouri.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 20, 1992

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Studio: Touchstone Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

Pulp (1972)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Running for his life.

Michael Caine and director Mike Hodges teamed up again one year after doing the gritty classic Get Carter with this breezy oddity dealing with a pulp fiction writer Mickey King (Caine) who is hired to pen the autobiography of ex-Hollywood star Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney) who is now living in exile in Malta. The problem is that Gilbert has ties to the underworld and Mickey soon finds himself running for his life while meeting up with a barrage of oddball characters along the way.

The movie has a wonderfully quirky sense of humor with a few memorable laugh-out-loud sequences especially at the beginning. I got a real kick out of the man with a weak bladder who says a prayer to God to open up a locked bathroom door when he can’t get into it. The scene in the bus where we hear the different thoughts going on inside each of the passenger’s heads is great as well. The opening sequence featuring a row of lady typists writing up King’s latest manuscript is cute, but the one thing that holds it all together is Caine’s wry voice-over narration that remains consistently amusing.

Rooney though manages to steal the whole thing with his hilarious send-up of an aging actor. In fact this may be one of the funniest roles of his entire career. Even the scene showing him shadow boxing in his underwear is engaging although thankfully the camera doesn’t stay on it for too long. I was a bit disappointed that the character didn’t last through the film’s duration, but his death scene is so funny that it almost makes up for it.

It is nice to see Lizabeth Scott in her last film to date and first since 1957 when she was essentially blacklisted from Hollywood purportedly for her lesbian leanings. Although only 50 at the time her aging face looked like she was almost 70 and her deep, raspy voice sounded similar to the demon’s in The Exorcist. I thought she could’ve been given more to do and played a character that was more integral to the story as her screen time is much too brief.

The on-location shooting done on the island nation of Malta is another asset. The sunny weather has a nice exotic feel and the old architecture of the buildings helps give the film a visual distinction. The melodic piano soundtrack is pleasing and I wished it had been heard a little bit more.

The story is full of a lot of unexpected twists and turns that manages to be engaging for a while, but I felt it runs out of steam by the end. During the final 15 minutes I found myself a bit bored and no longer caught up in it. While I do like the scene where the gunmen gets run over by a pick-up and shown from the point-of-view of the driver I still felt that the ending lacked the finesse and quirkiness of the beginning. The offbeat ideas that writer/director Hodges showers into the film become dried up with a finish that lacks any payoff and unfortunately sullies what is otherwise an offbeat gem waiting to be discovered.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 4, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Mike Hodges

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t trust these guys.

Freddy (Steve Martin) is a small-time con able to trick women into paying for his meals and sometimes even into their beds, but he is nothing compared to Lawrence (Michael Caine). This is a man that lives in luxury all from money that he has duped from rich women. Freddy decides to team up with Lawrence to learn his craft. The two work together for a while with Freddy playing Lawrence’s crazy younger brother, but the two have a falling out and end up becoming rivals instead. They meet Janey Colgate (Glenne Headley) the supposed daughter of a rich soap manufacturer and compete to see who can con her out of $50,000.

This version is far superior to Bedtime Story, which was reviewed yesterday. The pace is snappier and gets into the scenario more quickly. The scenes are consistently amusing and everything is handled at a slick level. The women aren’t all portrayed as naïve idiots like in the first and in certain cases they are just as corrupt and greedy as the two men. The music is bouncy and playful and helps propel the movie along.

Although both films were shot along the French Rivera this one does a better job of capturing the sunny and exotic locale. When Freddy visits Lawrence at his mansion and looks out at his exquisite seaside view and says ‘I want this’ I felt like saying ‘I want it too’.

I wasn’t sure Martin could top Marlon Brando’s performance from the first film, which was the only thing good about it, but he does. It took a little adjusting at first, but Martin takes the reins and in his usual style makes the part his own. His best segment is when he is in jail and can’t remember Lawrence’s name, which makes terrific use of his improvisational skills. The part where he asks to go to the bathroom is a little bit gross, but funny as well.

Caine is excellent is his part and gives the role more panache than David Niven did in the first one. He even puts on an effective German accent during the segment where he pretends to be a famous German psychiatrist. Believe it or not the parts of Freddy and Lawrence were originally intended for Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

Headley is good in her role as well. She has an attractive quality about her that is distinct and natural and avoids the plastic Hollywood starlet image. Her voice borders on being a little nasally, which could have become annoying, but with this type of part it works.

The best thing about this version though is the twist ending, which helps to maintain the slick level throughout the entire duration of the story. In the first version the ending was highly contrived and unimaginative as well as going against the personalities of the characters. Here it hits-the-mark and works as a nice payoff to the rest of the film.

The only critical comment I have about the movie is that it goes on a bit too long. 110 minutes is too extended a runtime for light comedy.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 14, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Frank Oz

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD