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The Ladykillers
2004 - R - 104 Mins.
Director: Joel Coen
Written By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall, George Wallace, Ryan Hurst, Jason Weaver, Steven Root
Review by: Joseph Kastner
It is quite amazing to see the Minnesota native Coen Brothers and their films thrust into the mainstream media when just a few years ago they were barely known outside the independent feature circuit. To say the creative duo have a fancy for crime capers would be an understatement … They live and breathe felonious situations as many of their features have demonstrated over the years starting with their first film, Blood Simple. Another understatement would be to say that their films apply to the normal sense of logic as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? can advocate to that. A more precise description would be to say that the Coen Brothers, as strange and outlandish as their films may be, are an inventive duo that continue to surprise the film community with their marvelous cinematography and spiritual music. It is only as of late, thanks to the wide reception of O’ Brother Where Art Thou?, that the team has been pushed into spotlight with their romantic flick Intolerable Cruelty and now this but some wonder if this will go too much to their heads, which may result in the creative aspect so many once desired from them.

The story is based on the 1955 British Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers, starring Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers with the situation this time being set in Southern Louisiana instead of London. Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, Ph.D would seem the perfect gentlemen, most notably to a kindly old church-going woman like Mrs. Munson. He’s well versed in oratory skills, intelligent, and charming … The perfect disguise for the criminal mastery that lies underneath. The charlatan professor has come upon this perpetual household in order to establish his base of operations in the root cellar, which happens to be right in line with the gambling casino’s underground vault. With the help of an explosives expert, tunneling operator, muscle man, and a “inside man”, the criminal gang plans to rob the floating casino of millions of dollars all in the effort to become exceedingly rich. Everything seems to be going perfectly … Until their upstairs host stumbles upon their little operation and threatens to report them to the authorities unless they return the money and go to church that Sunday. Left with no choice at hand, they plot to do-out the kindly old woman … a task easier said then done. The story for The Ladykillers, as Cohen Brothers-esque as it may be, is too outlandish even for them. Some of the events that take place within the film, whether they were funny or not, are too overtop and stereotypical that it just off-balances the plot. On top of that, the entire feature, though time at a reasonable one hour and fifty minutes, feels dragged out and longer then it is.

Cohen Brothers films have always attracted top talent and The Ladykillers is no exception. Unfortunately that talent is somewhat squandered here which only adds to the disappointing reception of this film from a creative duo we expected more from. The biggest highlight of the feature, whether it be good or bad, had to be Tom Hanks as the villainous Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, Ph.D. Hanks gives an over-the-top performance of a character that seems to be a combination of Colonel Sanders, the rooster from the Looney Tunes cartoons, and every charming villain ever assembled on screen. Whether or not this works for you, credit must be given to Tom Hanks for putting a lot of effort into a character that is so central to the story. Unfortunately it isn’t enough to keep the rest of the cast, as well as the plot itself, afloat. J.K. Simmons’s Garth Pancake, all acting ability aside, is just an absolutely disturbing and, at times, flat-out annoying character that, as much effort as the man puts into it, just doesn’t seem to work all that well for the film. And Marlon Wayans, once again whether there is acting ability there or not aside, is the most foul-mouthed character to come across such a comedy in a long time and is quite a surprise coming from the Cohen Brothers.

Overall, The Ladykillers is one of the most foul-mouthed, predictable, and bland comedies this year and quite a disappointment coming the same team that brought us the creative masterpiece, O’ Brother, Where Art Thou? Right off the bat, the use of offensive language came as one of the biggest surprises from this film, it not being a good one at that. Never had there been such a ridiculous usage of the words f*ck and the “n-word” in recent memory, or at least since Bad Boys II graced us with its abhorrent presence in July 2003. The detestable language served no real purpose in the plot of this film and seemed to hinder it more then anything else, though that is not to say that had the word usage been tone-downed that it would have helped out all that much. The plot itself may seem a neat concept on paper but watching it acted out on screen can be excruciating with the relatively simple story feeling dragged out longer then it actually is. And the fact that the events after the midway point of the feature become extremely predictable doesn’t help out much either. Bottom-line is that this film will be a mixed bag … some may come out of this disappointed while others will be laughing in stitches, it’s all depending on the point of view and whether or not they have had experiences with the Cohen Brothers in the past. Fans of their work will certainly be disappointed by this outing … Here’s hoping they take a year off to rejuvenate those creative juices of theirs.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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