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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 MP Bartley

"Stealing from Ealing will get you nowhere boys."
3 stars

The Coen Brothers are an acquired taste. Stylish and intelligent, but remote and strange. You can admire their love of language, their intricate knowledge of film genre and their oddball characters, but it's very hard to love them for it. In 'The Ladykillers' their remake of the Ealing classic, both their strengths and faults are highlighted.

Tom Hanks takes over from Alec Guinness in the original as the leader of a gang, Professor Goldthwait Higginson-Dorr. Moving into the spare room of Mississippi matron Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall) he soon takes over the cellar for the pretence of practising with his gospel group. The real reason however, being they plan to use the cellar to tunnel into the cash office of a local casino and make off with the takings. Alongside Goldthwait in the gang are the explosives expert Pancake (JK Simmons), for whom everything is 'the easiest thing in the world' and who has a Swiss miss for a girlfriend, Gawain (Marlon Wayans) who is the cussing ghetto boy who is also the inside man of the job, Lump (Ryan Hurst) who is the simple minded muscle of the operation and the General (Tzi Ma) who knows digging and can do a neat trick with a cigarette.

It's clear that this highlights one of the Coen's strengths: oddball characters. Every character is a bulging bag of ticks and eccentricities, be it physical or verbal. Goldthwait is a wheezing thesaurus of a man not content to give a sentence five words where twenty could go. Pancake is a constant hoot, with his penchant for doing the wrong thing at the worst time but attempting to bluff his way out of it with constant optimism as part of the job. And Mrs Munson is a God-fearin', single-minded mama who won't take any hippity-hop music, swearing or smoking in her house. No siree.

But this highlights one of the Coen's faults: being too clever for their own good. It may be neat trick to make Goldthwait such a verbose character, but it quickly wears thin and becomes clear that the Coen brothers are just showing off at how many more words they know than anyone else. Do they buy a constant supply of word-of-the-day toilet paper or something?

The same applys for all the characters, they're all show and no depth. Whereas the original had a criminal gang that felt like real criminals and an old lady that truly seemed like someone's Granny, these characters never feel real. Colourful yes, but the Coen's using colourful characters instead of real people is a recurring theme of theirs that has became trying.

So while Hanks may be having a ball as Goldthwait he never rings true, and it's all style with no depth, tricks with no truth. For Coen fans however, this is exactly what they love. And good for them. They may be annoyed at how cliched the other characters are however. Lump is a standard knucklehead that could have come from 'American Pie' while Gawain is a stereo-typical ghetto boy that could have come from 'Bad Boys 2'. So while his expletive-filled rants at Pancake may tickle the funny bone the first time round, they become wearing the fifth time round, and you have to wonder when the Coens started to appeal to the lowest common denominator by using fart and shit jokes. It's the kind of joke that 'American Pie' has never grown out of. And here are the Coens using it as one of their biggest punchlines. Boys, what were you thinking of? And how old is the old-woman-hitting-young-man-in-the-face-repeatedly joke now?

Crucially however, it is funny. The Coens do know a funny phrase more than anyone, and for all their stereotypes more often than not the escapades of the hopeless gang will raise a constant belly-laugh and some of the introductions to the characters are amongst the funniest scenes you'll see all year. There's a sense however that this simply isn't as funny or as dark as it should be.
Hanks and Wayans may raise the chuckles, but with Hanks a dapper gentleman from the 1920's and Wayans a very present day character, they just never sit comfortable together. Why is Hanks a 20's-style character? Because it's weird probably, and the Coen's like that. It really sums up the film, the indecision over whether this is a fart and fuck comedy or a dark, play on words farce.

Hall is also a 20's character trapped in the present day for no particular reason. Although she gives the role terrific energy, she can't escape the cliches of the character which is almost borderline racist in it's portrayal of poor, god-lovin' black folks.

Anyone familiar with the original will not be able to keep thinking how funnier and darker it really was. The tension building up to the plot to kill the old woman was masterfully handled there, but here it's just shunted in at the end as if to fulfill an obligation to the title. Crucially, Munson is an intimidating figure here, so it's not as surprising when the attempts to kill her fail. In the original these failed attempts were much funnier for the fact that the lady of the title was so frail and fragile. It makes for a much blacker and darker conceit than the one here, where the eventual deaths of the gang are crammed in at the end with little thought of tension or flow. The Coen's may think that because it's about murder, this film is automatically dark, but it's actually pretty feeble in its attempts to convince us of its black heart and thoughts. Ironically it lacks the conviction to go for the kill.

I've perhaps given the impression that this is a bad film. But it's not by any stretch of the imagination. There's some great directorial flourishs from the top of a bridge and there's a lot of handsome framing and styling going here. The cast throw themselves into the thin material with glee, which makes it never less than interesting to watch and consistently funny. The over-riding feeling however is that the Coens are stretching themselves now with their last few efforts patchy at best, and actually lowering themselves to a re-make. Their schtick has worn thin and it seems like they're fruitlessly searching for new ideas to re-charge themselves. But someone should tell them that infantile jokes about Irritable Bowel Syndrome will never be a new idea no matter how fancy it's dressed up. At times it's like a Coen's comedy for the Bruckheimer crowd and that's a combination that'll never work. Perhaps the remake that the brothers should concentrate on is themselves.

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originally posted: 07/02/04 00:08:57
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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. Donīt 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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