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The Ladykillers /

Rated: R

Starring: Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans, Irma P. Hall, Ryan Hurst, Stephen Root

Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Produced by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Tom Jacobson, Barry Josephson, Barry Sonnenfeld
Written by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen,
Max D. Adams
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures


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     I will often get hate-mail because I will occasionally score a movie negatively, entirely because of its terrible last half hour (a la Bruce Almighty). I find this thinking to be perfectly legit, since the climax and resolution are the two most awaited portions of a film by its viewers. Being disappointed by a product that begins soundly is worse than one watching one that is excruciating the entire way through. Joel and Ethan Coen’s new film, The Ladykillers, represents the exact opposite of the situation I’ve just described. It doesn’t have a bad opening, but does open begin, compared to its talented makers’ usually inspired work. And yet, the last half of it captured me in adoration, containing some of the funniest material the Coens have ever created. I hate mediocrity as much as the next guy, but sitting through it for fifty minutes is almost a treat, when the coming substance is as ingeniously hysterical as the final chunk of The Ladykillers.

     The premise is beautiful. Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks) has turned his attention from teaching towards a scheme of crime, wishing to rob the underground vault of a Southern casino, by tunneling to it from the cellar of an old, traditionalist black woman. He has rented a room from her house, and created a story about how he and his church-music-busting band (really his team of fellow bandits) need to use the basement of sorts to orchestrate their work, without disturbing anyone. As they tunnel through the cellar’s bare dirt wall, his lessor is hot on their tails. Eventually, though, The Ladykillers proves to be less about her learning of the scheme after many close-calls as it does a dark and fateful, sickly comedic masterpiece. Death and injury are serious concepts, and only the most gifted writers are ever able to make them seem funny, much less drop-dead hilarious. The Coens aren’t just gifted, though. They’re not human, seemingly coming from a planet consisting of only the most tasteful jokes in the universe.

     And it really is the Coens who make The Ladykillers funny. Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast add their own unique bites to their roles, but our writer/directors can be accredited for the brilliant physical gags, which form the very movie. I see the same thing in them that the majority of the world saw in Woody Allen forty years ago. They’re darkly likeable, finding humor in unique situations, making their style feel distinguished. This is the most important trait anyone can bestow in the film industry. They could probably make…oh, I don’t know…say, Tom Green, seem funny. No, that’s too extreme. However, they might have a shot at Ashton Kutcher, and this is miraculous enough, in itself.

     Speaking of acting, though, the cast here does deserve special mention, even if their work is overshadowed by the cleverness of the movie’s creators. The best performance is put on by Irma P. Hall, who plays G.H.’s lessor, going by the name of Marva Munson. She gains our sympathy in such a sweet little role, and we feel bad for her as the criminals put her through completely unnecessary trouble. Originally, her approach may seem like a total misfire, but once the audience becomes aware of how well it fits into the context of the ending that has been concocted, they will be grinning from ear-to-ear because of it

     Perhaps all geniuses need some time to warm up, and for consistent pair that goes by the name of Coen, I’d wait a lifetime for a single punch-line. I can’t wait to watch The Ladykillers a second time, because now that I know of what’s to come of it, the beginning will be a breeze to sit through. Most of those who have objected to the film say that Hollywood is un-Coen-friendly, and they need to break back into the indie-circuit. I’d most definitely disagree. The pair are happy with where they are, and as long as this remains true, their success will only continue. Thank the Lord.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews

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