The Ladykillers

on March 26, 2004 by Jon Alon Walz
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In a rare misfire, filmmaking brothers Joel & Ethan Coen ("The Big Lebowski," "Fargo'), in choosing not to plumb the breathtakingly deep originality of their dark, twisted minds for a fresh story, have instead remade, for little reason and even littler consequence, the 1955 Alec Guinness comic heist film of the same name.

The Coens' "Ladykillers," set in the rural south instead of London, finds a crack team of bank-heist experts at work, led by Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks), a well-spoken southern gentleman with an Edgar Alan Poe obsession, a quick mind and a very evil laugh. Dorr quickly talks himself into the good graces of Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall) as well as into a room in her house. Mrs. Munson's house just so happens to be within a few hundred feet of a riverboat gambling casino and is coincidentally complete with a full, dirt-walled basement--or, as Dorr calls it quite often and excitedly in his deep, proper southern drawl, a "rut-cella." The squad's seemingly easy dig from Mrs. Munson's basement to the riverboat casino's vault becomes complicated by all manner of expected obstruction and folly, while Hanks manages to wear out his welcome with the audience, not to mention poor Mrs. Munson, very quickly with his character's exaggerated accent and sticky-suave verbal cadence.

"The Ladykillers" plays out so by-the-numbers that it might be better titled "Dorr's Five"--a low-tech, small-time, blue-collar kid brother to Steven Soderbergh's more muscular and dazzling remake of "Ocean's 11." Much of the heist plotting would have been extremely amusing and even remarkable had this been the first heist movie ever made. However, seven decades of caper movies--some much better and some much worse--have already tunneled their way into cinemas and video stores worldwide. It is certainly curious to contemplate how the combination of the genius, subversive Coen brothers with the talent of the world's biggest movie star could produce a film that feels so thoroughly robbed of its best treasures. Starring Tom Hanks, Irma Hall, Marlon Wayans and JK Simmons. Directed and written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. Produced by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Tom Jacobson, Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated R for language including sexual references. Running time: 104 min

Tags: Tom Hanks, Irma Hall, Marlon Wayans, JK Simmons, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. Produced by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Tom Jacobson, Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson. A Buena Vista release. Comedy
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