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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

The Ladykillers (2004)


Not the type of lady-killing I do at the clubs, but same idea. I guess.

A charlatan professor by the name of Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, PhD (Tom Hanks) moves into the house of an older, African American woman widow (Irma P. Hall) for what seems to be a nice place for him to relax and jam with his gospel band. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth as Dorr is up to no good with a cast of criminals that plan to rob the bank of a gambling casino, just through an underground tunnel. It may work, or it may not, but with the widow around, things prove to be pretty tense for the boys. Well, that and the fact that they are also a gang of misfits that don’t quite come together so perfectly on what they need to do next in their two dollar-plan.

The Coen Brothers love to have fun. I know that, you know that, Frances McDormand knows that, your parents know that, hell, in fact, I’d wager that even a person whose only seen one Coen Brothers flick could tell you that. That’s why the opportunity for them to remake a somewhat-classic film, may bring groans and moans from their dearly-beloved fans, but it’s what the Coens want to do, and they do have a knack for choosing their fine pieces of material, so yeah, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us, right?!?!?

Well, kinda, sort of, not really, but yeah. Here, I’ll explain:

What these two guys specialize in is taking a genre that can be tired and conventional and spin it totally on its head. That’s sort of what they do here with this movie, but even when they don’t, it still seems like the guys know exactly what they’re doing, any given moment; it’s just whether or not we like seeing them go through the motions with it. For the most part, there was some enjoyment in seeing them go through the motions as they made their steps in the mud, here and there, but other times, it felt like they could have been doing so much more with this material. Almost like they took this job because they had nothing else better to do during ’04, so they thought, “Why the hell not?!?!?”

Could totally just see them sitting around for a cup 'o tea, if they weren't robbing some casino.

Could totally just see them sitting around for a cup ‘o tea, if they weren’t robbing some casino.

Still, I have to give it to the guys for at least knowing how to enjoy themselves, where they allow others to join in the fun as well. Even if the movie does feel repetitive, predictable and slightly unoriginal, you never get the sense that this wasn’t made by the Coens. Their trademarks are still in full-force (quirky characters, heist-gone-wrong, gospel music, long, drawn-out scenes of dialogue), but they don’t win you over quite as well as they used to, especially once the heist begins to get going.

Once the movie begins, we are introduced to the older, black widow, then we meet Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, then we get a montage of the other cats that will be joining in this heist, and that’s about it for the hype-up. Then, once we see them all, it’s on with the heist. It felt quick and ready-to-go, but for me, I need my heist to take it’s time of where it goes, just so I can get a feel for the characters, the plot and the actual heist at-hand. Here, it just seemed like the Coens weren’t ready to settle down and wanted to get right into the action, which makes sense since this isn’t a very serious piece of work, at first. However, once it does become that way and we start to see that these are characters we’re supposed to care for and understand, it never fully comes together as we’re never given anytime whatsoever to be with these guys or see who they are before the heist, during it, and after. Maybe I was asking a bit too much, but with the way things turned out at the end, I kind of felt like my feelings were understandable. At least to me, that is.

But these characters are memorable in their own ways, all because they have their own set of quirks that make them stand-out from the rest. However, they aren’t the finest creations the Coens have ever brought to screen. Take for instance, the character played by Ryan Hurst, Lump: The dude’s the quintessential dummy that plays football, doesn’t have much going for him in the brain-department and just stands around with his mouth open, barely saying anything at all. Why? Well, it’s simple: It’s because he’s too dumb to even know what’s going on. Once or twice, it’s funny, but knowing the Coens and knowing how they role with their goofy characters, by giving them a set of quirks and trademarks that fit perfectly well together with the rest of the movie, it feels as if these guys ran a out of ideas, and decided to go down that obvious-route. Nothing ill to say against Hurst because the dude is fine with this role, it’s just that the character gets annoying after awhile, and seems like the Coens were scratching their heads for ideas and just crapped the most conventional one out onto paper.

But, not everybody suffers from the same problem that Hurst does as Lump, because they all have good characters to work with and do what they can to make them work. Tom Hanks was a freakin’ laugh-out-loud riot as the silver-tongued gentleman, G.H. Dorr, and shows that the guy can practically play anything and make it work ten times better than you’d least expect it to. I know, it sounds crazy that I’d ever be doubting Hanks’ role in a movie, but there have been the occasional times where things haven’t always worked out for him. Here though, he’s fun, entertaining, charming and interesting to just listen to as you know there’s mroe than just a caricature behind that whole facade. You just know it. He uses a lot of big words, most of which will probably go over the smartest person’s head, but Hanks handles it all with perfection and seems like he actually does know these words, rather than just reiterating them in a way that’s attractive enough for the camera. Hanks is the anchor to this flick, and always seems to be having the time of his life. As he should, cause the dude’s one of the best working right now.

A random bit of casting here is Marlon Wayans as the brass, black dude that works at the casino these guys are planning to rob and is funny, but also a bit sympathetic as well, despite him always cursing and going on about one dude bringing his bitch to the Waffle Hut (trust me, it’ll make sense once you see it). I’m really surprised that Wayans gets choice roles in movies like this and Requiem for a Dream, yet, always goes back to making shit like this and that. I’ve never understand why so many acclaimed directors choose this guy to be in their movies, never understood why he’s been so good in them, but most of all, I’ve never understood why the hell he doesn’t just stay away from the crap he makes with his family. I get that you are supposed to be there through thick-and-thin with the familia, but when they begin to take your career down; you gotta move on and tell them you’ll see them at the next Christmas party.

Does knitting really excuse hearing?

Does knitting really excuse hearing?

Then again though, that’s just me. I guess I didn’t learn a single thing from the Godfather.

Rounding out the cast of characters is J.K. Simmons and Tzi Ma as the other fellas apart of this heist, and are both good. Simmons has impeccable comedic-timing that usually works in everything he does, and Ma rarely ever speaks but is funny, a bit goofy, and slightly intimidating as well. Both are good, but don’t leave much of an impression on you, as much as Irma P. Hall does as the widow these guys are staking out in. Hall is funny because she’s always yelling and complaining about something new, but also has a bit of a sweet side to her as well, where you can see that she’s a nice lady, but she’s just getting all old and alone. Sort of like all elders out there in the world. Difference between them and her, is that most of those folks aren’t getting robbed blindly by a bunch of random misfits.

Consensus: The Coens have done way, way better and far more original movies than the Ladykillers, but they still seem to be having fun, and allow the cast to do their thing. Not the most memorable one out of their flicks, but still a bunch of joy to be had.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

I'd prefer it to be raining this, but that's just me.

I’d prefer it to be raining this, but that’s just me.

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23 responses to “The Ladykillers (2004)

  1. ninvoid99 December 5, 2013 at 5:10 am

    This was an OK film but it’s my least favorite. Especially as it pales in comparison to the original film which is a classic.

  2. The Movie Man December 5, 2013 at 5:21 am

    It really does look like crap compared to the original. I love Tom Hanks, but he ain’t no Alec Guiness :)

  3. Pingback: » Movie Review – Robots Fernby Films

  4. Monkeyboy December 5, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Good review. Not really a fan of this one. It’s nowhere near as good as the original. Have you seen it?

  5. dresdenfalls December 5, 2013 at 11:12 am

    A reasonable film, a good watch once and a while. Great review and agree a rental movie.

  6. thomasjford December 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I’d go as low as 4/10 instead for this. Easily the Coens worst film…

  7. mikeyb @ screenkicker December 5, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I’ve always loved the original especially because it has a really dark streak running through it. This one didn’t have that. Still seems like a pointless remake

    • CMrok93 December 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      It seemed to want to have a dark streak, but only use that as a way in order to go back and try and be witty again. Didn’t quite work out well, but it was still fun enough to enjoy.

  8. Dan Heaton December 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I think Hanks is great in this movie, and it’s nice to see him doing comedy. On the other hand, this is one of the Coen brothers’ films that I haven’t revisited since the theaters. So I’m thinking it’s near the bottom of their filmography. Still a good movie, but not one I want to see again soon.

  9. Whit' Movie Reviews December 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Terrific review Dan! I saw this when I was younger and thought it was mediocre at best. I haven’t revisited it since, and now I’m glad I haven’t. Probably the Coen’s weakest.

  10. ckckred December 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever watched the entire movie, but the parts I did see I enjoyed, though I’d peg it as one of the Coen brothers’ weakest films. Nice review.

  11. Mark Walker December 6, 2013 at 9:28 am

    This is the Coen’s worst film in my opinion. A very generic outing from them. Like you say, though, it does have its moments of fun and Hanks was top quality!

  12. Three Rows Back December 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Not a patch on the Ealing classic, although it has a few nice Coen touches. Hanks ain’t no Alec Guiness. Nicely done Dan.

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