For those who thought we’d lost the Coen brothers to the mainstream with Intolerable Cruelty, fear not: their latest is as delightfully offbeat as anything they’ve ever done.
Professor Goldthwait Higgenson Dorr (a Colonel Sanders-looking Tom Hanks) is a brilliant criminal mind who comes to the deep South town of Saucier with a plan to dig a tunnel from an old black lady’s cellar to the local riverboat casino’s underground money room. Dorr assembles a crack team composed of Garth Pancake (J.K. Simmons), an explosive expert who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, Lump (Ryan Hurst), a mentally challenged football player, the General (Tzi Ma), a cold-blooded Vietnamese tactical planner, and Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans), the proverbial “inside man” – he works as a janitor at the casino.
To avoid raising suspicion from the big mama (amusingly portrayed by Irma P. Hall), Borr and his crew pass themselves as musicians in need of her basement to practice. That the lady never realizes that something’s afoul is hard to believe, but that doesn’t matter, just as it’s irrelevant that heist flicks are a dime a dozen these days. All matters of plot here are only an excuse for quirky character comedy. This is pure Coen, endlessly stylized (cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Carter Burwell do great work as usual) and full of gloriously overwritten dialogue, heartily delivered by an inspired ensemble cast.
“The Ladykillers” is a silly, silly movie that will leave many befuddled, but I found the dysfunctional interaction between the five ridiculously colorful outlaws increasingly hilarious through the film. Mention must also be made of the great soundtrack, especially the contagiously enthusiastic gospel numbers performed at the lady’s church. Good times.
“You brought your bitch to the Waffle Hut?”