The Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) are widely considered to be the most exciting directing team working within the constraints of the Hollywood studio system. Throughout the 90s, they made a series of consistently boundary pushing, bizarre films – each different from the last.
In fact, it is difficult to remember a bad film these two have done in the past 10 years. Unfortunately, The Ladykillers, a remake of a film from the 1950s of the same name, is their first significant mistake in quite some time. It features attempts at various bizarre characters, and their out of this world situations, but most of it manages to do nothing but fall flat and lifeless.
The original 1955 Ladykillers starred Alec Guiness and Peter Seller – names that offer a bit more comic potential than the likes of Marlon Wayans.
The film deals with Prof. GH Dorr (Tom Hanks), who is looking for a quiet place to plot a robbery. He begins by renting a room from Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall). There, under the guise of practicing with his musical group, the professor begins to dig a tunnel to a casino boat he plans on robbing.
His crew consists of: Lump Hudson (Ryan Hurst) who is the muscle, Garth Pancake (JK Simmons), the explosives guy, The General (Tzi Ma) a scary fighter, and Gawain (Marlon Wayans) the inside man helping them gain access to the casino.
The problems that arise are all vintage Coen brother comedy: a severed limb, a case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gawain’s obsession with large buttocks. All eventually get in the way of their robbery. That is all well and good, but none of it is particularly funny. The movie as a whole seems strangely subdued and forced.
It’s not a painfully terrible movie to watch, but an unfunny comedy can by definition never be good. The jokes are mostly either lame, (a character repeatedly asking for a bigger share of the robbery because he lost a limb) or strangely outdated (a repeated reference to a 15-year-old Tribe Called Quest song).
The actors are no help. Tom Hanks turns in one of those “I’m a big mainstream actor known for playing one type of part, and now I’m going to go completely against that type and play a weird role” performances – and it’s very annoying.
The accent he chooses to use is grating and the fact that he speaks in proper English the whole time leaves the audience trying to decipher what he just said. Marlon Wayans plays the same part he always does. Irma P. Hall is fine, but nothing special. None of the other actors leave any sort of an impression.
The ending of the movie almost redeems itself. Without going into detail, it is so gloriously sick, twisted and out of left field, it almost redeems the 90 minutes that preceded it. But upon further thought, this strange ending does not really fit in with rest of this toothless, insignificant movie. It is enough to leave the viewer asking, “Did I really just pay money to watch that movie?”
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org