The Coen brothers have done it again. The director/producer combination of Joel and Ethan Coen have added yet another movie to their rapidly growing repertoire of first-rate movies that includes “The Big Lebowski,” “Fargo,” and “Bad Santa.” In typical Coen brother’s fashion, “The Ladykillers” is a light drama with a dark comedic twist.
“Ladykillers” is a remake of 1955 British comedy of the same name starring Alec Guinness. Guinness’ role of Prof. Goldtwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D has gone this time to Tom Hanks, who thankfully reminds us that he wasn’t always a serious actor, and there was a time when he was considered one of the funniest actors in Hollywood.
Hanks’ Dorr is a devilish southern gentleman who bears a striking resemblance to Colonel Sanders. The character oozes southern hospitality with every word and every gesture. Dorr uses these southern manners to rent a room from Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall), an elderly black woman and avid churchgoer, by convincing her that he and his fellow thieves are in fact a small group of musicians who play renaissance-era church music.
Unbeknownst to her, the group, consisting of Mr. Pancake (J.K. Simmons), an explosives expert; The General (Tzi Ma) who is the teams digging expert from China; Lump (Ryan Hurst) who plays the bone headed muscle of group; and finally Gawain (Marlon Wayans), the mouthy casino janitor.
This band of merry men plan to rob a local riverboat casino but tunneling into its vault by way of Mrs. Munson’s root cellar. The majority of the movie revolves around the squabbling between the band of thieves and finding new and creative ways to hide their misdeeds from the ever-present Mrs. Munson.
Wayans delivers a performance that has its moments, but overall most of the jokes come off as childish and ruin the atmosphere of the movie. He steals almost all of the scenes that he is in, excluding those involving Hanks, and brings a kind of crude language and humor to the movie that seems out of place and, at time, inappropriate.
The supporting gang is funny in their own respects, but forgettable. Hanks on the other hand, is the shining star of this movie. Everything from his timing to his gestures (and even that toothy devilish grin he lets out every so often) is spot on. It’s hard to see anyone else as Professor Dorr.
In the end, it seems that the Coen brother’s first try at a film that they themselves didn’t write was a good one. They picked a film with the perfect blend of story telling and dark comedy, not to mention a nearly perfect cast. The film was good, but not outstanding.