The Ladykillers review by The Grim Ringler

One would assume, and not wrongly, that when you match the acting talent of Tom Hanks with the directing and writing wackiness of the Coen brothers that you are BOUND to have one helluva fun movie. And I can’t argue with that, as this is a fun movie. But the fact that it is fun doesn’t make it good. Nor does it make it bad. It just makes it, well…good. And that has me a bit worried. I have been a fan of the Coen's for some years now, probably since I saw Raising Arizona and I have remained a huge fan since. The Man Who Wasn’t There wasn’t my fave movie from them but it was an interesting, strange film and it showed that the brothers wanted to branch out and stretch themselves, and for that I say good. But having now see Lady Killers and their previous film Intolerable Cruelty, I am concerned with the fact they have made two very mediocre films. Both had wonderful casts and interesting premises but neither had more than a shadow of the ingenuity of the brothers’ other films. It feels like they are suddenly on cruise control and are looking either to make some more dough for their studios so they can do more ‘interesting’ films, or they are just not feeling it right now. Whatever it is, I certainly hope that this trend ends, and soon, as I am suddenly not that excited to go out and pay to see a Coen movie any more, and that’s not a good thing in the least.

The Ladykillers finds a widowed religious woman living in a small town looking for someone to rent her upstairs bedroom. She seems to have almost forgotten she even has the room to let when upon her doorstep appears the very strange countenance of Professor G.H. Dorr (Hanks), a man of dubious charm and condescending wit. Charming his way into her home, the good professor has good reason to want to stay in this particular woman’s abode – that reason being that she lives on a direct line with a certain riverboat gambling operation that the professor has his sites on. Collecting a motley crew of miscreant archetypes – the brute, the ‘urban guy’, the crazy foreigner etc. – the professor, a man of ‘books’ and who sports one crazy laugh and looks more than a bit like a certain colonel who sells chicken, begins enacting his plan to steal the casino’s cash. The plan is simple – dig a hole from the old woman’s home and to the casino’s land-bound counting house where their inside man will steal the loot, give it to them, and then wall the hole they used to get the cash back up. Simple, right? Wrong. The good professor, in order to trick the woman into allowing him to have his ‘friends’ over has told her that he and his compatriots are classical musicians. The ruse works, insanely, but the crooked corps of cons doesn’t and as soon as they have the money and think they are clear the woman catches onto what they are playing at and the house of cards begins to crumble. The professor, watching as his well-laid plan begins to crumble beneath him, hatches on last scheme – they will knock off the old lady, hide the body, and keep the cash. If, that is…they can actually kill the old broad.

I wish, wish, wish I could tell you that this was a desperately clever and interesting film that shows that the brother’s Coen are still firing straight but…well, I can’t. This is far from a bad film as it’s well made, acted well, and directed very well but…where’s the soul? This is a film from two men who have given us some of the weirdest and most original movies in Hollywood and this is just…lazy. I could guess the film’s outcome from the word go, and while that isn’t always bad – I mean, who the hell expects Bond to die etc.? – but dammit, this is a comedy where we should be on our toes the entire time and this doesn’t even try at that. It is clever, and the dénouement is chock full of irony but, again, so what? Hanks is very silly and seems to be loving his role here, as are the rest of the cast members but the entire time I was watching the film I just couldn’t muster up much interest. And that’s a shame. I realize that this film was a bit of a throwback to the farces of the fifties – much like Intolerable Cruelty was, but I think that they could have played with that form a lot more than they did. They are two very smart filmmakers and could very easily played with the construct of the fill and our perceptions. As it is, the audience can guess what the outcome will be, even if just in generalities, and that’s too bad.

If you are a die-hard Coen fan then you should check this out as it has enough weird touches to give you a grin, but the overall film felt a bit like a heatless picture, unlike many of their films. With such a talented cast and crew, this could have been a lot smarter movie, and seemed like it wanted to be with the vulgarity on display. Far from a bad film, I give it a lower rating because it could have been so much more than it is. Not a bad way to pass an afternoon, but nothing to get your hula-hoop excited over. Maybe make a couple White Russians and kick it with some friends around a nice rug.


6 out of 10 Jackasses
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