Tom Hanks plays his zaniest character to date in The Ladykillers, a remake of the 1955 Alec Guiness film. This time around, the Coen Brothers, known for their oddly delicious dark comedies, are directing, and the result is guaranteed to be something other than what is expected.
Specifically, The Ladykillers is about a mismatched group of thieves that have banded together to rob a riverboat casino. Led by an eccentric professor (Hanks) who proclaims himself the mastermind of the operation, the group, which consists of the foul-mouthed, hot-tempered black guy (Marlon wayans), the idiotic football player (Ryan Hurst), the munitions expert (J.K. Simmons) and the Asian digging professional (Tzi Ma), plan their route through the cellar of the house of an old woman (Irma P. Hall). Things seem as though they are going to be easy - that is, until the presence of the old woman becomes a problem. Hence the title...
As with most Coen productions, the film relies heavily on witty characters and dialogue, all of which is wrapped into a nice package with timely southern music that sounds awfully similar to that found in another Coen movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? To call them "witty" characters is an understatement - every person in this movie, including the old woman, is off-the-wall zany in some respect or another. The woman is gullible and perhaps a bit out of touch with reality, but not stupid. The professor is obviously intelligent and extremely out of touch with reality. The rest of the characters have at least one track wrong. Thankfully, the cast does a superb job of supporting such characters; the two leads, Hanks and Hall, do an especially great job. For Hanks, the role is quite different from his other performances, as he gets to play his first villainous character, and a fun one at that. Hanks is obviously having a lot of fun, as he gets to do plenty of silly things to make the audience laugh; his laugh, in particular, is quite entertaining.
The Ladykillers does struggle to keep pace in a few scenes, as for some reason the comedy dwindles in places. There are a couple scenes where the script is completely relying on Hanks' character to provide the jokes, instead of the dialogue to do such. Hanks is very funny a lot of the times, but he is best, of course, when the dialogue is good. Because of these intermittent dull scenes, the movie was hurtling toward the "entertaining but nothing special category," but thankfully, the last half hour makes it all worth it.
It is rare these days to see a movie where the ending is actually better than the first half of the movie, but The Ladykillers is one such film. The last half hour of the film is a bit different from the rest, but also is the funniest segment, though some people may be taken off guard. After all, the previews show to pretty good detail what the first half of the movie is like, but completely leave out any indication as to how it will end; of course, knowing something about the Coen brothers might give hint as to where the story is headed. Regardless, the final few chapters of the film are mightily entertaining and had the majority of the audience laughing out loud.
The Ladykillers is a fun crime comedy that gets better as time goes on. As with most Coen productions, it is a nice change of pace from "normal" comedies, and offers a great performance from Hanks and the rest of the cast.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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