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The Independent Critic

Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, Stephen Root
Joel & Ethan Coen
Joel & Ethan Coen, William Rose
Rated R
104 Mins.
Buena Vista
 "The Ladykillers (2004)" Review 
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The latest Coen Brother's film "The Ladykillers" is a challenging film to review. I contemplated its rating all day...vacillating pretty much in the "B" range. It is not that I didn't enjoy this film...quite the contrary, I did enjoy this film. However, this film didn't work for me on a few levels and this lack of connection and consistency have stayed on my mind more than the parts of the film I enjoy.

Tom Hanks, who is pretty much one of the most dependable actors around these days, does what he can to make this character his own. As Professor G.H. Dorr, Hanks has added multiple unique touches from his well noted VERY unique vocalization to his teeth to the simple physical presentation of the character. I admire, greatly, an actor who goes out on a limb with his character...I really do. AND, to his credit he did generally make me forget he was Tom Hanks. Yet, the character also had SOOOOO many quirks that it almost became more noticeable and a distraction from the film itself. In the original version of this film, Alec Guiness did a marvelous job with this character...his was quirky, but there was greater subtlety to his character. There were varying shades of the Professor...Hanks, generally, doesn't give the varying shades that would have added so much to his character.

What does work better here is the performance of Irma P. Hall...who takes away all the obnoxious, shrillness from the original film and gives us a real, believable and funny character to go with throughout the film. Hall, who captured the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival for this performance, died earlier this year...very sad...she was the jewel of this film.

Another performance in the film that bothered me considerably was that of Marlon Wayans...One of the beautiful trademarks of a Coen Brothers' film is that of subtlety...humor based in real life and within the daily context of a character...Wayans' character was far from subtle and was downright obnoxious. I felt like I was in "Scary Movie" watching him each time he took a scene. In particular, the scene in the Waffle Hut bothered me considerably...while I have no problem with the use of the "F" was overdone in this scene...what could have been a subtle, entertaining scene turned into an obnoxious, over-the-top scene that lacked any of the Coen signature touches.

Other characters worked on varying levels...but, once again...not to the level of the original film. Performers such as JK Simmons, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst and Diane Delano seemed mostly caricatures...along with the remarkably subdued performance of George Wallace and Stephen Root.

As in all Coen films, the music generally worked well...they have a knack for that...and I generally enjoyed the production design.

The 2004 version of "The Ladykillers" is an entertaining film, but definitely not the best film to come from the Coen Brothers. It has some unique touches...some work, some don't. But, if you're really into this storyline I'd suggest you pick up the 1955 original version of this film with a remarkable performance by Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic