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The Ladykillers Review

By Joe Lozito

Rob and Weave


The Coen Brothers have never met a botched crime they didn't like. "Fargo", "Blood Simple", even their classic "Raising Arizona" all feature attempts at crime by characters that are far more interesting than their nefarious deeds. This time, adapting an obscure 1955 Alec Guiness film, "The Ladykillers" follows five bungling casino robbers led by Tom Hanks as Professor G.H. Dorr PhD, one of those Coen characters that allow actors to chew the scenery as if their careers depended on it.

The films of the Coen Brothers exist in a reality all their own. From the opening moments, as Marva Munson (the wonderful Irma P. Hall) complains about "that hippity-hop music", we could be in the deep South of the Brothers' equally diverting "O Brother Where Art Thou". Only a throwaway line referring to "2000 years after Christ" alludes to a contemporary setting.

Ms. Hall nearly steals the show as the woman whose house is situated in the prime location to begin the dastardly deed. It's almost cliché to say it at this point, but again Tom Hanks given an outstanding performance, masterfully treading the border of believability and grotesquery. Mr. Hanks somehow combines Colonel Sanders, Foghorn Leghorn and The Monopoly Guy to create, like Johnny Depp's equally odd Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirate of the Caribbean", a character that rises above the sum of its parts.

The screenplay is not written as much as it is composed. The film is worth seeing for its language alone. Every line out of G.H.'s mouth is a feat of linguistic gymnastics. Even ordering from a restaurant takes on a multi-syllabic otherworldliness ("we require waffles forthwith."). At one point, when G.H. says he will "dazzle her with conversation" as a distraction, we know he will deliver.

While the film is trim, fast-paced and has a fine denouement, it is ultimately thin. We never learn anything real about these characters and, thanks to the brilliant performances of Mr. Hanks and Ms. Hall, we want to. So, we are left wanting more. Like Prof. Dorr, the Coen Brothers dazzle us with words, but leave us feeling robbed.

What did you think?

Movie title The Ladykillers
Release year 2004
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary The Coen Brothers concoct another delicious trifle of a film, this time with Tom Hanks biting into the plum role of the Poe-spewing head of a band of misfit casino robbers.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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