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Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst, Diane Delano, George Wallace, John McConnell
Writing Credits:
William Rose (movie, The Ladykillers), Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

The greatest criminal minds of all time have finally met their match.

Academy Award-winning Tom Hanks turns in a hilariously original performance in The Ladykillers, the laugh-out-loud comedy that explodes with outrageous wit and slapstick humor from the Coen Brothers. Underneath Professor G.H. Dorr's (Hanks) silver-tongued southern gentleman persona is a devious criminal who has assembled a motley gang of thieves to commit the heist of the century by tunneling through his churchgoing landlady's root cellar to a casino's vault of riches. But these cons are far from pros. As their scheme begins blowing up in their faces, their landlady smells a rat. And when she threatens to call the police, they figure they'll just bump her off. After all, how hard can that be? Wickedly funny from start to finish, it would be a crime to miss The Ladykillers.

Box Office:
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.634 million on 1583 screens.
Domestic Gross
$39.692 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/7/2004

• “The Gospel of The Ladykillers” Musical Numbers
• “Danny Ferrington: The Man Behind the Band” Featurette
• “The Slap Reel”
• ScriptScanner


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Ladykillers (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 15, 2004)

What the heck happened to Tom Hanks? Not that long ago, he stood as one of a handful of actors whose name consistently guaranteed good box office performance, but he’s now been involved with a string of disappointments. Add 2004’s The Ladykillers to that list, as Hanks’ collaboration with the Coen brothers failed to reach an audience.

A remake of a 1955 Alec Guinness vehicle, Ladykillers takes place in a very sleepy Mississippi community. We see that Sheriff Wayne Wyner (George Wallace) has little to do other than entertain the occasional complaints from elderly widow Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall). She offers a room to rent, and prissy Professor GH Dorr (Hanks) takes her up on this. He claims to have an ensemble that specializes in Renaissance music.

From there we meet a series of seemingly unconnected characters. These include casino janitor Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans), animal trainer Garth Pancake (JK Simmons), dim-witted football player Lump (Ryan Hurst), and militaristic donut shop owner the General (Tzi Ma). Soon we discover their connection, as it turns out the whole crew will pretend to be musicians but they plan to rob the Bandit Queen gambling ship’s shore-based vault. The movie details the roles each will play in the heist and then follows the complications that ensue along the way.

Unlike Coen flicks like The Big Lebowski, I don’t expect that Ladykillers will develop a substantial cult following. Lebowski didn’t make a lot of money, but it earned a significant underground buzz from day one, while Ladykillers seems viewed by fans as a general misfire.

As for me, I’ve always found the Coens to be overrated, and not much about Ladykillers changed my mind. However, it did seem more entertaining than I anticipated. Frankly, I don’t expect a whole lot from the Coens. I always thought Fargo was interesting but overrated, and other flicks like Lebowski and Barton Fink never did anything for me. All of these suffered from a sense of trying too hard to be quirky and irreverent, as those tones usually felt forced and unnatural.

Some of that element marred Ladykillers, but not as badly as I feared. To be sure, the movie took on an extremely broad tone and proceeded as a farce for the most part. It presented a fairly idyllic setting with goofy, widely-portrayed characters and played up the contrast between these elements heavily.

At times I felt the cast went too far, but they usually helped make the material work. Hanks goes over the top consistently and presented a character who seemed like he came from a Looney Tunes cartoon, but he also offered some sly and inventive turns. The rest of the cast followed suit to a fairly successful degree.

For the most part, the Coens rein in their usual self-conscious quirkiness, though a few misfires occurred. For example, they use changes in paintings of Marva’s deceased husband as a cutesy Greek chorus, and that became annoying quickly. The movie felt too long, and its dark ending didn’t fit particularly well with the preceding moments.

I wouldn’t look at The Ladykillers as anything special or a blazingly funny flick. Nonetheless, it proved generally amusing and light, at least until we got to the violence of the conclusion. It didn’t qualify as a memorable movie but it was reasonably enjoyable.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C

The Ladykillers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not many problems arose in this generally excellent transfer.

Across the board, sharpness looked good. Virtually no issues with softness occurred during the movie. The movie came across as well-defined and concise. Jagged edges and shimmering demonstrated no problems, but I noticed some mild edge enhancement sporadically. No print flaws cropped up during this clean image.

To reflect the film’s idyllic southern setting, the movie adopted a fairly golden palette that the DVD reflected nicely. Occasionally we got some brighter colors, but mostly they stayed subdued and somewhat heavy on the white/golden side of things. The hues were well-portrayed and clear. Blacks were dense and tight, while low-light shots came across as smooth and accurate. Lose the slight edge enhancement and this very good transfer would turn great.

One wouldn’t expect a lot of sonic ambition from the audio for a film like The Ladykillers, but the audio seemed satisfactory. The soundfield maintained a general emphasis on the forward channels. They demonstrated excellent stereo imaging for the music and a good sense of atmosphere for the other elements. Most of the film stayed with general environmental material, and when it presented more active information like explosions, the track came to life fairly well. The surrounds contributed a reasonable amount of reinforcement for the music and effects and occasionally added a bit more active information such as during Lump’s first-person football scene, but they usually stayed moderately passive.

Audio quality appeared excellent. Speech was natural and distinctive, with no signs of edginess or issues with intelligibility. Effects consistently sounded dynamic and tight, as they presented bright highs and deep lows. The occasional material that challenged the mix - like the explosions - didn’t tax it, as those elements sounded concise and warm. Music was also lively and rich. While not a stellar soundtrack, the audio of The Ladykillers worked fine for the material.

A small complement of extras adds to the DVD. The Gospel of The Ladykillers presents two performances from the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir with Rose Stone and the Venice Four. The film includes excerpts of “Shine On Me” and “Trouble of This World”, but they appear in their entirety here. Neither does anything for me.

Next we get a featurette entitled Danny Ferrington: The Man Behind the Band. In this 11-minute and four-second piece, we get notes from master luthier Ferrington, co-directors/co-writers Joel and Ethan Coen, and actor Tom Hanks. We hear about how Ferrington got into the instrument-building business and how he does his work. He also chats about his connection with the Coens, the atmosphere on the set, details of the instruments used in the movie and stories about his work for others. The latter elements offer the program’s best moments, as Ferrington reflects on major musicians who utilized his creations. Overall, this provides a pretty interesting discussion of an obscure subject.

At 96 seconds, The Slap Reel doesn’t last long. An odd snippet, it just offers an sequence of outtakes from the bits where Marva whaps Gawain. It’s fairly amusing.

To access the ScriptScanner, you need to play the disc via a DVD-ROM drive. Mine doesn’t function properly, so I couldn’t check it out, but it sounds like your standard script-to-screen viewer.

The disc opens with some ads. We get previews for The Last Shot, King Arthur and The Alamo. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area with trailers for Jersey Girl Jersey Girl, Splash, The Village, Alias Season Three and the Ladykillers soundtrack.

It seems doubtful that The Ladykillers will maintain the same audience and reputation of other flicks from the Coen brothers, but that doesn’t make it a bad flick. It’s inconsistent but reasonably amusing and clever. The DVD offers very good picture with more than acceptable audio but skimps on the supplements. I’d recommend this moderately entertaining movie as a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.9411 Stars Number of Votes: 17
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.