Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: The Gospel of the LadyKillers;
The Man Behind the Band; The Slap Reel.
NOT content with maintaining their own high standards, the Coen
brothers now attempt to pay homage to an Ealing comedy classic,
in the form of The Ladykillers, a hilarious little heist movie
which starred Sir Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers.
The film which results fails to reach the giddy heights set by
both the Coens and Ealing Studios (in 1955), but remains an enjoyable
romp that consistently keeps a smile on the face.
Tom Hanks returns to laugh-out-loud comedy for the first time
in more than a decade as Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D, a charlatan
professor, who assembles a gang of so-called experts to pull off
the heist of the century - namely, the land-based
counting office of a gambling riverboat, which seems ripe for
The experts in question are comprised of Marlon Wayans
motor-mouth inside man, Gawain MacSam; JK Simmons, as explosives
expert, Pancake; Tzi Ma, as the mysterious tunnel expert, The
General, and Ryan Hurst, as muscle-man, Lump.
Yet, while the plan looks fool-proof - they pose as church music
players and use the root cellar of an unsuspecting old lady (Irma
P Hall) to tunnel their way through - it quickly becomes apparent
that none of Dorrs crew is fit for the task, while the old
lady upstairs, in the form of the church-going Mrs Munson,
proves a more formidable adversary than they could ever have imagined,
once she realises their intentions.
Much of The Ladykillers appeal lies in the allure of its
cast, who consistently rise to the challenge set by the Coens
Hanks, for example, appears to be having an absolute blast as
the mastermind behind the operation, a straight-laced professor,
with a passion for quoting Edgar Allan Poe, who thinks he is a
great deal more intelligent than he is.
But there are times when he appears to be over-milking the pudding
and his performance threatens to undermine proceedings, particularly
as it is wordy in the extreme. Audiences may find themselves either
loving or hating his rogue.
That said, the enjoyment of watching a Coen brothers movie
often lies in its offbeat characterisations, and throughout The
Ladykillers, there are references to some of their feel-good successes
of the past - most notably in the ineptitude of its protagonists,
which evokes memories of the central trio in O Brother,
Where Art Thou, and the unravelling of the perfect crime,
as in Fargo.
The moronic stupidity of the criminal masterminds
in another film, Welcome
to Collinwood, also comes to mind, particularly during some
of the heist sequences.
But in Simmons, Wayans and Hall (who took the best actress prize
at Cannes), the film has a number of memorable characters in their
own right, and much of the fun lies in watching the way in which
they rub each other up the wrong way, to the detriment of the
And while things start slowly, by the time the job takes place,
and the decision is made to off the old lady, audiences
should be revelling in the mix of slapstick and farce which makes
The Ladykillers a welcome flip-side to the super-cool smartness
of the likes of Oceans
Also of note, is the mix of blues and gospel on the soundtrack,
which, again, resembles the score for O Brother, and which
seems designed to appeal to hard-core Coen enthusiasts.
The Ladykillers may not, ultimately, stand up to comparison with
its renowned predecessor, and may represent the Coens at their
most unashamedly mainstream, but it is still a hugely enjoyable
affair, if you can forgive some of its wordy excesses.