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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)
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by Collin Souter

"Yet another remake of a heist movie...but wait! This one's brilliant!"
4 stars

You could try and read a lot into the latest Coen Brothers movie, “The Ladykillers.” You could read it as a satire of racial stereotypes in the movies. One would only need to examine the characters of color: The preacher, the street hood, the feisty old lady and the chubby, somewhat insignificant and overweight security guard. You could read it as an allegory on exploitation and greed amongst the races. Just watch as the white, southern, sneakily charming man uses the feisty old black lady in order to obtain a fortune. You could even read it as a sermon on God watching over us all and punishing the wicked, if you want to look at the ominous gargoyles or that framed picture on the altar as any indication. Yeah, you could read all of that into this movie, or you can just sit back and just laugh your silly head off.

When was the last time you could say that about a Coen Brothers movie? When was the last time the Coens didn’t let their literary references get the best of them? When was the last time a Coen Brothers movie really delivered the goods? I enjoyed “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” but not as much as I would like to have. “Intolerable Cruelty” was a Coen Brothers movie in name only. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” had its moments. I would have to say that this might be the best Coen Brothers movie since “Fargo” and their funniest since “The Big Lebowski.” High praise, indeed, wouldn’t you say?

I know, I know, we all have our favorites and before “Intolerable Cruelty,” the Coen Brothers have consistently made movies worthy of serious debate. So, fine, put that aside for a moment. What about Tom Hanks? When was the last time you saw Tom Hanks really having fun in a movie? I mean, having a full-out blast? Before he started raking in Oscars? Probably. With this movie, Hanks creates a character so precise and so in tune with the Coens’ sensibilities, I found it quite odd that I hadn’t seen him do anything like it before. With his charming southern drawl and heightened vocabulary coupled with his goatee and droopy mustache, Hanks presents a man who resembles Foghorn Leghorn reincarnated as Colonel Sanders.

Yet, Hanks never outshines the rest of the cast. The Coens would never stoop to make a Tom Hanks “vehicle,” yet before I saw the movie, I felt disappointed that they would stoop to make yet another heist movie. Not just another heist movie, but a remake of a heist movie. Everybody who knows me knows that I can’t stand heist movies anymore. We have too many every year and, worse yet, they keep doing re-makes of heist movies, as though the stories needed updating. Why? Why do they keep doing it? And why do big stars sign on to do them? I don’t know, but I do know that this might be my favorite of them all. Why? It has very little to do with the heist and everything to do with the characters.

Hanks plays Professor G.H. Dorr, the leader of this rag-tag group of misfits, which I believe describes almost every group in almost every heist movie. Dorr takes residence in a little house owned by Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), the feisty old lady mentioned above. Marva attends church, talks to the local sheriff about what she sees as a morally bankrupt hip-hop culture and holds conversations with a painting of her deceased husband. Her closest living friend appears to be her cat, Pickles. What we know and what she doesn’t is that Dorr will be using the basement of her house to tunnel underground to a casino and rob it of all its cash.

Joining Dorr is Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans), a foul-mouthed employee at the casino who never seems to let the chance for a conflict pass him by; Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons), who works as an explosives expert on movie sets and just sees the heist as another “line of work”; The General (Tzi Ma), a quiet, Asian donut shop owner who has about three lines in the entire movie, but exudes so much and, for some inexplicable reason, with a finely combed Hitler mustache; and Lump Hudson (Ryan Hurst) a hulking, childlike, football-playing tackling dummy, with emphasis on dummy. Each of them has their skill and when Marva comes down to the basement to offer them cookies, they masquerade as a country band.

You’ll notice I’m not being too specific about these characters. As with any straight Coen Brothers comedy, the characters are extremely specific and every line of dialogue carefully executed. I simply prefer not to give away their quirks, mannerisms or their surprises. I will say that every single character shines and has been given the full Coen Brothers treatment. Occasionally, I felt that Marlon Wayans’ character seemed a bit out of place, simply because of how conventionally his character had been written. Yet, at the end of the day it works. Wayans becomes a character who tries his best to ground it all.

“The Ladykillers” has a weakness in that it tends to rely on jokes that succeeded once before to succeed repetitively. I’m not saying the jokes get run into the ground, but when certain gags resurface, it takes something away that made you laugh so hard the first time. They lose a few ounces of absurdity when they had once been out-of-left-field moments of brilliance. Also, one scene in which the robbers have to try and convince a house full of Marva’s friends that Dorr and his gang perform as a country band completely misses a comic opportunity and settles for a cutaway of everyone leaving the house somehow convinced.

Still, you’re not likely to find a funnier movie out there right now than “The Ladykillers.” Flaws aside, it is great to see the Coen Brothers at the top of their game again. It may not reach the heights of “Fargo” (my personal favorite), but at least they have decided to stick to the story they set out to tell and not fall victim to their own sense of esoteric greatness. This time, they set out to just make us laugh hard. Sure, as I said before, you could read more into it, just as people look at “The Big Lebowski” as one big metaphor for the first Gulf War. Makes sense when you think about it. With “The Ladykillers,” though, you may be laughing too much to really stop and analyze it. Plus, you may not want to, for fear of ruining the moment.

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originally posted: 03/27/04 01:14:52
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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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