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The Ladykillers


#352 - The Ladykillers
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2004



A gang of eccentric criminals plan to break into a casino through the basement of a house but must constantly deal with the house's elderly owner.

I like the original Ladykillers and I like most of the Coens' films so I was hoping that their remake might yield something greater than its reputation as the brothers' worst film would suggest. In fairness, it does come close - the casting is pretty strong for the most part and buoys some relatively flat characters just fine (though Tom Hanks plays well against type as the affable ringleader, it's Tzi Ma as "the General" who practically steals the show for me). The main quibble might be with Marlon Wayans, though it's hard to tell if he's giving a bad performance or just playing a badly-written character who leans way too hard on racial stereotypes (and it is quite hard to tell what exactly the Coens are going for with their depictions of black characters and the Deep South setting here). Regular cinematographer Roger Deakins does some good work here, though his talents seem a little wasted when the film pulls the manic camera movements one would associate with erstwhile Coen DoP Barry Sonnenfeld. While I'm not liable to consider this my least favourite Coens movie (Intolerable Cruelty still reigns supreme for now), it is nevertheless a bit too much of a fiasco that never totally manages to justify its existence as its attempts to inject a new personality are just as likely to fail as succeed.