The Ladykillers (2004) starring Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst, Diane Delano directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Movie Review

The Ladykillers (2004)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Tom Hanks as Professor G.H. Dorr in The Ladykillers (2004)

In Need of a Guinness

A cross between a remake and a re-imagining the Coen brothers' "The Ladykillers" is a movie which probably is more entertaining for those who have never seen the original Ealing Studios classic. But I have seen the original, I like the original and unfortunately whilst I admire what the Coen's tried to do by re-imagining the story rather than just remaking it, it didn't work for me. I suppose it comes down to the fact that I like the smooth dark humour of the original "The Ladykillers" and that is replaced by some typical Coen quirkiness combined with a touch of the Eddie Murphy about it which never really works for me.

Eccentric Southern Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks - Catch Me If You Can) rents a room in the home of Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall) where he charms her with his old fashioned manners. But in truth Dorr is a master criminal and with his equally eccentric group of buddies who pretend to be part of a small orchestra group are in fact tunnelling from Mrs. Munson's basement to the office of a nearby casino to rob it. Despite a few squeaky bum moments they pull the heist off but unfortunately Marva discovers what Dorr has been up to and now one of the gang is going to have to silence her.

Marlon Wayans as Gawain MacSam in The Ladykillers (2004)

So in fairness I like what the Coen's have attempted to do and that is take the original "The Ladykillers" and switch things up a bit with a different location, era, characters and actual robbery but at the same time keeping many of the essential parts. As such we have Tom Hanks playing the eccentric and well spoken Dorr which is a Southern take on Alec Guinness's Professor Marcus and we also have the comical equivalent of the train scene from the original which now features barges shifting garbage down the river. But the one thing which did change and for me spoils things is that Katie Johnson's Mrs. Wilberforce in the original was a sweet little old lady who you could warm to but here Marva Munson is a strong woman, a bit of a battle axe and this version loses something because of this change.

But that is not the only thing I didn't like in the Coen's version because the original was comically sinister, darkly funny where whilst there are patches of dark humour in Coen's re-imagining we get a lot more quirky humour. Hank's professor is a very quirky being to the point of feeling forced, then there is the quirky squeaky bum moments where one of the robbers has an IBS spasm mid robbery. And I could go on because a lot of the humour is quirky, some would say typical Coen brothers but not an example of them at their quirky best. And to make matters worse we have an almost Eddie Murphy style humour to it as well with various characters who are loud and basically swear a lot. It probably works for newer audiences but not for those who enjoyed the original "The Ladykillers".

Now I have already mentioned Tom Hanks and as a fan of Hanks this is one of his least enjoyable performances as everything feels forced. But then thankfully the supporting cast of J.K. Simmons, Marlon Wayans, Tzi Ma and Ryan Hurst are a lot more natural. And then there is Irma P. Hall as Marva Munson who plays her part well despite the fact that the actual character is wrong for me.

What this all boils down to is that whilst not the Coen's at their best I am sure fans of their movies will enjoy "The Ladykillers" and those who have never seen the original will probably feel the same. But for those who have seen the great Ealing comedy this re-imagining/ remake is a poor imitation which never really gels.