Classic Movie Review: Ruthless People (1986)

Ruthless People is reality TV done right – a crude yet hilarious movie about tacky and horrible people.

Danny De Vito plays a wealthy businessman plotting to murder his irritating wife (Bette Midler), but before he gets the chance to commit the crime, she is kidnapped by a clueless married couple. The kidnappers demand $50,000 for the release of Midler or else, but DeVito refuses to pay the ransom, believing that the couple will kill his wife. Instead, the couple keeps her alive and Midler plots revenge on her husband.

Back in the days before “reality” TV shows became so popular that it got its own award category, an 80’s comedy caper didn’t need to pretend its unscripted to deliver comedy gold.

Danny DeVito and Bette Midler lead a cast of vile characters that have little to no redeeming qualities. Both turned in perfectly vulgar performances while the rest if the cast delivered their jokes without fail.

The well written script is gleefully silly and unapologetically crude. It starts really simple and becomes increasingly twisted without looking forced or rushed as the characters prey on each other. The dialogue is filled with quotable snippets such as Barbara proclaiming, ” I’ve been kidnapped by K-mart!” and Sam telling his mistress for the nth time that he married his wife because, “Her father was very, very rich, and very, very sick.”

Ruthless People is contrived, lewd and filled with characters that are human slime (even the bystanders), but it’s also funny. I watched this in the early aughts and still found it hilarious.

My rating: 7/10

If you’re a fan of It’s Sunny in Philadelphia this is worth watching, which by the way also features Danny DeVito.

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