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The Ladykillers

The 2004 Coen Brother's movie

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No actual ladies were killed in the making of this movie

  • Apr 4, 2010
So I'm progressing through the Coen Brothers movie panoply and I come here, where once again (as in Intolerable Cruelty (Widescreen Edition) the Coen Brothers rely on a big name lead (Tom Hanks here, George Clooney there) to carry the movie while frankly it seems they coast a bit.

I'd say they should stay away from borrowed material (this is a nominal remake of a 50's crime caper), except for the excellent No Country for Old Men which I know is coming soon in my journey and I felt justly deserved the awards it got a couple year's back. And I'd say they should stay away from big name stars, except for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, where Clooney's performance shined strong in pomade and power.

No I think this and Cruelty are just a pair of movies where the Coen Brothers heart and soul are not in the movie. And those are key words here. Hanks, scene-chewing with abandon (certainly at the direction of the Brothers) as a stereotyped southern gentleman professor of chamber music, gathers a gang of miscreants to help him (as in: actually do the work) tunnel into the vault of a Mississippi riverboat casino from the basement of a boarding house where Hanks has rented a room. He doesn't reckon on the intelligence and tenacity (she still talks to the portrait of her late husband--after 20 years!) of landlady Mrs. Munson. When she inevitably uncovers the plot, she offers an ultimatum which the criminals won't meet, so slapstick inevitably ensues as they try to get the money out of the basement past her eye.

That's two inevitably's too many for a Coen Brother's movie. The only likable character is Mrs. Munson, but we are never sure if she is being held up as a hero, or as a patsy for a gang of criminals so stupid and so unlikable that we'd almost feel sorry for them, if they weren't so (Marlon Wayans deserves special recognition for the vulgarity and unpleasantness of his character). Where were John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, or Jon Polito when this movie was made? Apparently not available, along with any other actor with one-tenth their comic feel needed to play this gang of bumblers.

There may have been a point to be made about the contrast between the permanently-ported "riverboat" casino and the garbage barges freely plying the Mississippi past it. But if there was, it got lost in the formulaic slapstick of the plot around it. The heart and soul of the movie (Mrs. Munson) are given too little to do and too much hard work digging out from under the muck of Hank and company when she is given the screen time. The few scenes where this movie shines is when Mrs. Munson is on the screen without the idiot gang, going about her ordinary but worthy life in her ordinary but worthy town--going to church to hear the choir belt out its uptempo black gospel music numbers and the preacher sing his sermon afterward, walking to the sheriff's office, walking home through the small-town streets.

As usual for a Coen Brothers movie, the music--of the kind that inspired Jimmy Swaggart and got cousin Jerry Lee Lewis kicked out of his white Baptist Bible college--is excellent.

I'd be more depressed about this movie if I didn't know that No Country is next on my list, and that more is to come.

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More The Ladykillers reviews
review by . October 14, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I felt something a little amiss with this movie as it started.  It started okay, not great but then I saw it and it was a harbinger of things to come....      Tom Hanks......      in a comedy role......using a corny accent.      The last time I remember Tom Hanks with the accent was in The Volunteers, a Peace Corps comedy from years ago where Tom Hanks played a New England blue blood who is escaping his debtors and talked the whole …
Quick Tip by . October 14, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Coen Brothers in a very underwhelming (for them) movie about a silver tougned con man and his gang of criminals to rob a Casino and use an old woman's house as cover. This is not the Coen's best work.
review by . September 09, 2004
The Coen Brothers versus The Ladykillers could be a more appropriate title for this mixed bag of a film. Based loosely (very) on the Alec Guinness classic, this seems yet another outlet for the Coens to parody the South. The plot is known: a fancy speaking Professor of the Ancient Languages (Tom Hanks) gathers miscreants from a small town in the South to rob the quasi-legal money from a gambling boat on the Mississippi. The staging facility is a room rented from a heady gospel-infatuated yet strong …
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #65
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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About this movie


Remake of the 1955 film.

If you've never enjoyed Alec Guinness in theclassic 1955 British comedythat inspired it, the Coen brothers' remake ofThe Ladykillersmay well prove hilarious. For starters, it's got Tom Hanks in a variation of the Guinness role, eccentrically channeling Colonel Sanders, Tennessee Williams, and Edgar Allan Poe in his southern-fried performance as Prof. Goldthwait Higgins Dorr, Ph.D. (named after an actual arts institute curator from the Coens' native Minnesota), a deliciously verbose con man who needs a secret headquarters for his five-man plot to rob a riverboat casino moored on the Mississippi. In the film's funniest and least-caricatured role (and even she can't elude the Coens' comedic stereotyping), Irma P. Hall plays the churchgoing widow who rents a room to Dorr, whose crew of "musicians" (in keeping with the original's plot) use the lady's root cellar to tunnel to the casino's cash-rich counting room. Rampant mishaps ensue, the body count rises among Dorr's band of idiots (including Marlon Wayans, spouting nonstop profanities), and the Coens put their uniquely stylish stamp on everything. It's a funny movie, allowing for some nagging flatness to the material, but if you've seen the original (and other vintage comedies from the heyday of Britain's low-budget Ealing Studios), you'll eventually wonder,what were they thinking? Accounting for all the qualities that grace any Coen ...
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: March 26, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: William Rose, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Runtime: 1hr 44min
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
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Coen Brother Classics


First to Review

"A VERY Mixed Bag"
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