Could anything go wrong when you pair Tom Hanks with the Coen Brothers? This week we journey back to 2004 and look at the Coen/Hanks collaboration The Ladykillers.

The Plot

Marva Munson lives a simple life. Attending church, and donating to her favorite bible college, the widowed woman’s day is interrupted when a professor named G.H. Dorr comes a calling. Dorr wants to rent a room in her large and most empty home for a rehearsal space for his band of renaissance musicians.

Marva is unaware of Dorr and his band of merry men’s true intentions. In fact, they are no musicians, but criminals. Dorr and his gang Gawain, Garth, The General, and Lump plan to dig a tunnel from Mrs. Munson’s basement to the vault of a nearby riverboat casino.

The success of the heist is fleeting because Marva discovers their crime. Threatening to turn them in if they don’t return the money and come to church with her, the group must reconcile with the fact that to get away with the crime they must kill the combative Mrs. Munson.

But will Mrs. Munson be so easy to dispatch with? Dorr and his band of thieves will find out that eliminating Mrs. Munson may prove to be impossible.

The Good

The Ladykillers may star Tom Hanks, but this is Irma P. Hall’s film. Cantankerous and defiant, Hall radiates an attitude of indifference, feistiness, and heart. Hall’s Marva Munson is a woman raised one way, with values and morals that have been instilled in her since she was a child, but she is human too. The scene where Hanks’ Dorr tries to convince her to take a payoff gives Hall the chance to show her range and depth to Mrs. Munson.

It’s nice to see Tom Hanks trying something new. Known as the proverbial nice guy of film, seeing Hanks take on the villain role is a refreshing change of pace. Granted I don’t have much love for G.H. Dorr, but I do like Tom Hanks. (Sidenote: I enjoyed Bonfire of the Vanities, mostly because of Hanks playing a role that was normally out of his comfort level.)

The Bad and the Ugly

I find with Coen Brothers movies they are hit and miss with me. The Ladykillers fails to make me care about any of the main characters. Even if the gang succeeds in killing Ms. Munson, I doubt I would have mourned her death.

The cast is fantastic, but the story just didn’t interest me.

Beyond the Film Facts

  • The film was nominated for multiple awards. Irma P. Hall won the Jury Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for her work in the film.
  • The Coen brothers were nominated for the Palme D’Or for their work on the film.
  • Hall also won a Black Reel Award at the 2005 ceremony for her performance in the film.
  • At the time, The Ladykillers was the first film where both Coen Brothers were given producing and directing credits. Usually, they would switch up the roles for their films.  
  • The painted portrait of Marva’s dead husband Othar is constantly making different faces whenever it is zoomed in on throughout the movie.
  • Bruce Campbell has a cameo in the film during the dog food commercial.
  • The movie is a remake of the Alec Guinness film of the same name from 1955. Plans to remake the movie had been circulating through Hollywood for years before production on the Coen brothers film began.
  • Much of the film was shot in Natchez, Mississippi.
  • Barry Sonnenfeld was originally supposed to direct the film and the Coens were just going to write the script. When Sonnenfeld backed out of the project the Coens were hired to direct.
  • While the film was a box office success, critics were mixed on the value of the film. Roger Ebert praised Irma P. Hall’s performance, while stating that everyone else in the film goes overboard with their characters.

The Streamy Award

{Watch on your phone (1) Watch on a tablet (2) Perfect travel entertainment (3) Best at home with the biggest screen (4)}

The Ladykillers is funny, but it is not a great film. Sadly, the high-level performance of Irma P. Hall is bogged down in a silly story, that didn’t need to be remade.

The Ladykillers gets a Level 2 ‘Streamy Award’. If you are looking to binge watch the lesser Coen brothers’ movies, then stream The Ladykillers on your tablet and do something else while the movie is playing.

Cast and Crew

  • Tom Hanks as Professor G.H. Dorr
  • Irma P. Hall as Marva Munson
  • Marlon Wayans as Gawain MacSam
  • J.K. Simmons as Garth Pancake
  • Tzi Ma as The General
  • Ryan Hurst as Lump Hudson

Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen

Produced by Touchstone Pictures/The Jacobson Company

Release Date: March 26, 2004

Budget: $35 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $39,799,191

Worldwide Total: $76,665,191

Coming Soon

Next week begins ‘International Week’ by reviewing movies that Touchstone Pictures distributed internationally but didn’t produce. Our first film in this series is 2003’s epic horse race tale from Universal Pictures, Seabiscuit.