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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.03%
Worth A Look46.88%
Average: 28.91%
Pretty Bad: 7.81%
Total Crap: 9.38%

10 reviews, 68 user ratings

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Ladykillers, The (2004)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Stephen Groenewegen

"An ill-conceived caper"
3 stars

Once you get past asking “Why?” you may find yourself chuckling during The Ladykillers. This is the 11th feature from Joel and Ethan Coen, those wacky sibling superstars of American independent film. It’s also a remake of an acclaimed black and white British comedy from 1955, the heyday of Ealing Studios. The original starred Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers, and has a formidable reputation. So it’s no surprise that the Coens jettisoned everything but the title and the basic premise for their new film, to try and deflect too many unfavourable comparisons with its predecessor.

Even if, like me, you’ve not seen the earlier film, there are some obvious, major differences between them. For a start, the Coens’ Ladykillers is set in the contemporary American south, rather than post-war Britain. Nor is it black and white - the vision of the Coens’ regular cinematographer, Roger Deakins, is brightly lit and vibrantly coloured. There’s also a prominent black presence in the cast, a mixture of gospel and hip-hop on the soundtrack and a Southern Baptist sensibility.

The “ladykillers” of the title are a dimwitted crew of aspiring thieves. Their ringleader is Dr Goldthwait Higginson Dorr (Tom Hanks) who assembles his team from an advertisement in the Memphis Scimitar. The General (Tzi Ma) is recruited because of his experience digging tunnels in South Vietnam. Brawn is supplied by a muscle-bound young footballer, appropriately named Lump (Ryan Hurst). The General prefers to stay silent; Lump is too stupid to speak. The rest of the team won’t stop talking.

Garth Pancake (JK Simmons, J Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man) is the demolitions expert - with an unwelcome medical condition. Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans) is a potty-mouthed janitor and the “inside man”, since he’s employed by the riverboat casino they intend to rob. Dorr himself is a loquacious old-fashioned Southern gentleman, with a white cape, mellifluous manner and Colonel Sanders beard. His elaborate plan depends on boarding at the house of a pious black widow, Mrs. Munson (Irma P Hall), and tunnelling through to the treasure from her root cellar. What no one can foresee, least of all Mrs. Munson, is the effect she will have on the outcome of the caper.

After a decade of dramatic posturing and award baiting, it’s hard for Tom Hanks to play in an ensemble or blend into the background of a film. He has to dominate. This is a full-force comical characterisation, complete with exaggerated accent, extreme vocabulary and extravagant costume. It’s studied and it’s consistent, but it’s not altogether hilarious and Irma P Hall steals the film from under him and his one-note criminal buddies.

Not only is Hall playing a comic stereotype to the hilt, she invests Mrs. Munson with sufficient human qualities for us to care about her even as we’re laughing at what she says and does. Mrs. Munson is a plain-speaking, God-fearing woman dressed in voluminous floral print dresses, with matching white gloves and hat. She has definite ideas about what’s right, wrong and proper, and she’s suspicious of strangers and especially disapproving of “hip-pity hop” music. What themes the film has are conveyed through her - the mysterious workings of fate and karma, the clash between old world and new, young and old, traditional and modern black characters.

When Irma P Hall is off screen, I was only too aware of the laboured plot mechanism. A Coen brothers film is never dull, or without some dazzling technique, but you have to wonder what attracted them to this material. Their films seem to be drawing increasingly bigger budgets and stars, but it feels like the Coens are treading water, waiting for true inspiration to strike. In the meantime, they recycle old ideas and genres, getting by on their track record and the loving loyalty of a dwindling cult of fans.

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originally posted: 08/18/04 13:23:29
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User Comments

11/10/18 Keith P. It was okay. I discovered it on TV. I liked seeing Oscar-winner Hanks ham it up. 2 stars
11/06/12 Jeff Wilder Even a mediocre COen Brothers film is better than most,. 3 stars
5/03/12 Monday Morning Quirky, funny, great. Hanks's laugh alone is priceless. 4 stars
12/02/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
9/17/08 Stu Hanks is brilliant and the whole film is funny. Don´t know why it gets such a hard time. 4 stars
1/22/08 David Cohen Made me pine for "Bonfire of the Vanities" 1 stars
11/08/07 asg i was one of the few in the theatre who was laughing my arse off. it went past most i guess 4 stars
11/11/06 David Pollastrini HORRIBLE, ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE 1 stars
6/01/06 tatum Very funny, on par with the original 4 stars
11/04/05 Bad Critic Definitely Tom Hanks best performance. 4 stars
3/31/05 Nick Boyd Tom Hanks and Irma P. Hall make this a worthwhile film, though just barely 3 stars
3/25/05 indrid cold Just shows that the Coens are gimmicky and overrated. 3 stars
3/14/05 Landshark outlandish & cartoony, it's looks like homespun farce but plods too slowly. 3 stars
11/12/04 Clatz Didn't find this funny at all, it's a quirky version of something thats been done to death. 2 stars
11/03/04 Jews for Hitler Very boring. There's a scene of Hanks reading a book. Yawn.... 1 stars
10/31/04 DJ Any movie with Tom Hanks is great! 4 stars
10/29/04 Dan If you like "Oh brother where art thou?" type comedic movies, this ones for you! 4 stars
10/11/04 willie I did not care for it 2 stars
9/27/04 Josh Standlee Tom Hanks ruled! Marlon Wayans sucked. 3 stars
9/17/04 Helen Bradley Tom Hanks brilliant too many 'f****' words problems with script 5 stars
9/02/04 Elaine Perrone Glad it worked for you, Dennis. I'm close to giving up on the Coens. 1 stars
8/21/04 ALDO Not really that funny....from the cast i expected better...they talk so much shit 2 stars
8/21/04 john bale Coen Brothers Musical Black Comedy ala "Where art thou" Hanks & Hall good fun together. 4 stars
8/19/04 Peter B. Boring!!! 2 stars
7/09/04 Confessions Of A Teenage Trauma Queen What's that modern boombox doing in a movie otherwise stuck in the 1950s? Almost pty crappy 3 stars
7/06/04 James Kustes This is the type of Coen movie I like 4 stars
7/03/04 Miles Bader Lots of nice bits, but lacks some sort of spark 3 stars
7/01/04 Mikey Crunt Comedykillers!!! Fart is not funny!!!! Phhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh 1 stars
7/01/04 Pants It was shit 1 stars
6/16/04 earl duron Worst Coen film of all 2 stars
6/14/04 de dog i say its ok but i might not see it agin 3 stars
6/11/04 Ron Spin It swore its way into obscurity, I'd swear. 1 stars
5/22/04 CK Pure and utter absolute travesty. Original was way better 1 stars
5/15/04 skye fun. but not oh brother fun. 4 stars
5/05/04 A F ZZZzzzZZZZz Oh OH! Is it over. THat was a nice nap. 2 stars
4/19/04 Robin Swearingen very funny, several allusions to works of literature 4 stars
4/17/04 Jackie The use of the :"f" word ruined what should have been a funny movie 2 stars
4/17/04 Jodie It was awful, save your money and don't waste your time. 2 stars
4/15/04 bob ok 4 stars
4/14/04 Jack Collins We walked out--stupid movie--waste $12.50 1 stars
4/11/04 Peter Funny, yet left with an empty feeling 4 stars
4/08/04 George Jung Close to perfect. 5 stars
4/07/04 gayle Horrible - stereotypical crap, BJU indeed! 1 stars
4/07/04 Kev Pretty damn funny 4 stars
4/05/04 ajay very entertaining. 4 stars
4/02/04 George Jung Almost perfect. 5 stars
4/02/04 toolband this film has an amazing film style and is also very dark.....amazing film 5 stars
4/02/04 Michelle Bennett This movie was entirely too slow and too long. The 'funny' scenes were typcial / expected 2 stars
4/01/04 TC Not the Coens' best, but still hiliarious 5 stars
4/01/04 KingNeutron Slow-moving, but funny and well-executed. The music was awesome. :) 3 stars
3/30/04 Julie I feel like i have lost 2 hours of my life. People left the theatre shaking their heads! 1 stars
3/29/04 Pin The heist genre will never be the same. 5 stars
3/29/04 zeke really good 5 stars
3/29/04 Jennifer B it was ok, it had a tough time getting started but the old lady was really funny 3 stars
3/28/04 mark kick ass 5 stars
3/28/04 Agent Sands Disappointing. Pretty funny, good camerawork, clever heist, otherwise not up to Coen par. 3 stars
3/28/04 mk fun, visually sharp, a good laugh, loved it 4 stars
3/27/04 Bonnie Baker Taken as a spoof and then it's great... 4 stars
3/27/04 buddy garrett a good movie but i am not a coen fan 4 stars
3/27/04 Eric Harker The Coen's are my heroes! 5 stars
3/27/04 AfroFett gross? I second the "best since Fargo" review 4 stars
3/25/04 Mike V Strong start but doesn't have legs. 3 stars
3/25/04 d-fine gross, unfunny, couldn't believe the brothers directed it. Horrid 1 stars
3/25/04 Alien Ink Alien at the Movies, a sneak preview review. 4 stars
3/24/04 earl jam lots of out loud laughing 4 stars
3/20/04 Ray Tom Hanks is great, the movie is great!!! 4 stars
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  26-Mar-2004 (R)
  DVD: 07-Sep-2004



Directed by
  Joel Coen
  Ethan Coen

Written by
  Joel Coen
  Ethan Coen

  Tom Hanks
  Marlon Wayans
  Irma P. Hall
  Stephen Root
  J.K. Simmons
  George Wallace

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