Review: The Ladykillers (2004)

This is what happens when one of my favorite directing duos of all time misses the mark, big time!

Screenplay By: Ethan & Joel Coen
Directed By: Ethan & Joel Coen

I really wanted to like The Ladykillers, actually I wanted to love it. My favorite actor of all time joining forces with a directing pair that I love should have been made of instant win. Instead what I got was a film that was lifeless and if it didn’t care I certainly wasn’t going to care. I don’t blame Hanks though, I can see that he was trying. Nope, I place the majority, read all, of the blame on the Coen brothers. And it pains me to say that, because up till this point I have at least liked every film I have seen from them. The Ladykillers breaks that streak, it breaks that streak with ease.

It didn’t take long for me to start to veer away from what The Ladykillers was trying to do on the screen. It was at about the time when all the players in the heist were being introduced that I began to check out of the movie. As each character was introduced I began to wonder what the point of all of this fluff was? Most of what I was seeing didn’t matter, it wasn’t going to matter in the end, it did nothing to actually establish the characters and while I may have emitted a few slight chuckles, on the whole it wasn’t funny. That feeling never went away, till the very end the most The Ladykillers managed to wrangle from me was a slight chuckle and a lot of questioning of what the Coens were going for.

Take the character of Garth Pankcake, as played by J.K. Simmons, for example. That is a character who should be a barrel of laughs, and lord knows Simmons tries. I admit, I did laugh at his actions a few different times, but a guy named Garth Pancake who is as idiosyncratic as he appears to be should be a riot. Alas, he was not, he never leaps off the screen or stands out as all that interesting. And that is why I was so disappointed with The Ladykillers. This is the Coen brothers we are talking about, they are the kings of making the absurd funny and interesting. Yet none of that is to be found anywhere in The Ladykillers, and that totally bummed me out, man.

Aw screw it, that’s enough ragging on The Ladykillers I think. I do really love the Coen brothers and I don’t have the energy to continue going on about what a total letdown one of their films happens to be. The Ladykillers is not a good Coen brothers film, it is not a good film period. Don’t let the idea of Tom Hanks working with the Coen brothers sucker you in. There’s no reason for anyone to ever watch this remake, and no I haven’t seen the original, even if you need to see every film the Coen brothers have ever made The Ladykillers isn’t worth your time.




10 responses to “Review: The Ladykillers (2004)

  1. I definitely agree with you here. I’m sure the idea of remaking The Ladykillers sounded great to the Coens when they first started talking about it, but it’s another one of those classic film remakes that is always going to be in the shadow of the original.

  2. Of all the Coen Brothers that I’ve seen. There’s 2 that I haven’t seen in their entirety. This one and “The Hudsucker Proxy”.

    The former, I’ve only seen in scattered moments. Yet I found myself not really entertained nor engaged by it. I’m not sure if it’s the worst film by the Coens (“Burn After Reading” is currently in that list). Yet, I’ll take this over any piece of shit film out there.

  3. Hola Bill, I think you are correct in laying blame at the feet of the Coens for their Flop Ladykillers, especially given their obsession with minutiae and results oriented directing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan and count some of their films as the best of the best, but at the same time I’m also pretty critical of their ventures and when they miss the mark it’s usually by yards, not inches. Where I might disagree with you if say, you were reviewing a film by Clint Eastwood or Peter Jackson or even Peter Weir, proven collaborators who regale us with powerful films and memorable stories, when it comes to the Coen brothers their films have their finger prints all over them from beginning to end.

    I think you make some good points about he films shortcomings, from a mediocre script to line-readings by actors that should deliver but don’t. I know there are plenty of reviews and discussions about this being a remake and while you don’t touch too much on this fact (seeing that you haven’t seen the original) I’m not a fan of the often blow-by-blow dissection of originals versus remakes. I commented elsewhere regarding my thought on, for instance, Van Sants shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. All in all Ladykillers falls flat and not even Tom Hanks or anyone else tied to this sinking ship could save it.

    I agree with you, avoid this one unless of course you’ve got a rope tied around the bow and the deep dark blue is unavoidable.

  4. mcarteratthemovies

    This is easily the worst movie the Coens have made — barring “Intolerable Cruelty” — but in a way I kind of like that. Why? Because the worst Coen film is still 18 times better than the worst film by the average director. The Coens do best when they’re making their own films and not adapting someone else’s.

    I also have this theory that every so often the brothers intentionally make a movie they know people will label as “sub-par.” I think they do it a) because they can and b) because it reminds us that these guys are just people (albeit people who are really good at writing movies).

  5. Dan – I still need to see the original, someday.

    Steven – I like The Hudsucker Proxy, it’s not great, but it is a good piece of entertainment.

    Rory – We’re pretty much in agreement across the board dude.

    M – Interesting theory, not sure I agree, but interesting.

  6. I don’t think I can help myself, Bill. I’ve just gotta see this again. It’s the Hanks factor. You’re probably right though.

  7. intolerable cruelty and this get a bad rep – theres still watchable bits in em, if not Raising Arizona standard
    but what is?

  8. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Directing Props, Pt. 2! | Bill's Movie Emporium

  9. Noff – I really did like Hanks, so if that’s why you want to see it again them that is a good reason. I don’t think I touched on it much in my review, but he was very, very good, it’s just mostly everything else around hims was sorta, just there, ya know?

    Ross – Still have yet to see Intolerable Cruelty.

  10. Pingback: Review: Intolerable Cruelty (2003) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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