The Ladykillers (2004 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ethan Coen
|Produced by||Ethan Coen
|Screenplay by||Ethan Coen
|Based on||The Ladykillers
by William Rose
Irma P. Hall
J. K. Simmons
|Music by||T-Bone Burnett
|Editing by||Roderick Jaynes|
Mike Zoss Productions
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Release date(s)||March 26, 2004|
|Running time||104 minutes|
The Ladykillers (2004) is a black comedy film directed, written and produced by the Coen brothers and starring Tom Hanks, with a supporting cast that includes J. K. Simmons, Marlon Wayans, Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst and Irma P. Hall. It is based on the 1955 British Ealing comedy film of the same name.
This was the first film in which Ethan and Joel Coen share both producing and directing credits; previously Ethan had always been credited as producer and Joel as director. It was originally to have been directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, the Coens' former cinematographer. The brothers were originally commissioned to write the script only. When Sonnenfeld backed out, the Coens were eventually hired as directors, with Sonnenfeld retaining a producer credit.
Mrs. Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall), a religious, elderly widow, meets "Professor" Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr (Tom Hanks), who expresses interest in the room she has for rent and asks to use her root cellar for rehearsals of an early music ensemble he directs, to which she agrees. The fellow musicians in the pretend ensemble are actually a gang of criminals, named Lump (Ryan Hurst), The General (Tzi Ma), Garth Pancake (J. K. Simmons), and Gawain (Marlon Wayans).
The group of criminals plan to dig a tunnel through the earthen wall in the cellar in order to break into the underground vault for a nearby riverboat casino. The earth they remove is taken out at night and tossed off a bridge onto a garbage barge as it passes below.
A series of mishaps threaten to derail their plan, including "inside man" Gawain losing his janitorial job at the casino, Garth losing a finger during an accidental detonation of plastic explosive, and a visit from the local sheriff. Nonetheless, the group manages to break through the wall of the vault and snatch the loot. Before the group can get away, Mrs. Munson uncovers the plot and tells Dorr to return the money and go with her to church on Sunday, or face the authorities. Dorr attempts to persuade her otherwise, by claiming that the casino's insurance company will replace the money, resulting in each shareholder only losing a single penny. He also claims he will donate a full share of the stolen funds to Bob Jones University, a Bible college which Mrs. Munson admires, but she insists on her judgment.
The gang decides they have no choice but to murder her. None of them are eager to kill an old woman, so they draw straws. The task falls to Gawain, but he fails to go through with it after he realizes Mrs. Munson reminds him of his mother. This starts a fight between Garth and Gawain, which results in Gawain being fatally shot with his own gun; the group dumps his body off the bridge onto the trash barge. Garth then attempts to steal the entire sum of money and escape with his girlfriend, "Mountain Girl," but the General kills them both with a wire garotte and discards their bodies onto the barge. After drawing lots again, the General is about to kill Mrs. Munson in her sleep when he is startled by the cuckoo clock, causing him to fall down the stairs and break his neck. As Lump and Dorr dispose of The General's body onto the barge, Lump has a change of heart and tells Dorr he wants to do what Mrs. Munson says. When Dorr refuses, Lump attempts to shoot him with a revolver, but the chamber is empty; he peers down the barrel and accidentally shoots himself with the round that was in the next chamber, falling off the bridge onto the barge. Dorr, now alone, pauses to quote some poetry; he is then struck in the head by a piece of a decaying grotesque, dislodged by a raven. As he tumbles off the bridge, his coat gets caught and hangs him, before he too finally falls onto the barge.
Mrs. Munson finds all the money in her basement and believes that the criminals fled and decided to leave the money. She informs the police about the money, but believing her to be insane, they tell her to keep it; she decides to donate it to Bob Jones University.
- Tom Hanks as G.H. Dorr, Ph. D, the mastermind of the casino heist. He is the chatty Southern dandy who rents Mrs. Munson's apartment as a stage for the robbery. Dorr is very articulate, charming, and is somewhat pretentious. He is a recognizable parody of some of William Faulkner's characters and also bears some resemblance to Manly Pointer in Flannery O'Connor's Good Country People.
- Irma P. Hall as Marva Munson, a well-meaning, God-fearing elderly widow. She shares her name with the judge in the previous Coen Brothers film Intolerable Cruelty.
- Tzi Ma as "The General", the often silent owner of the Hi-Ho Donut store in the town. It is strongly implied that he gained his rank and experience tunneling for the Vietcong.
- J. K. Simmons as Garth Pancake, a garrulous demolitions expert who suffers from IBS. He has a female partner, Mountain Girl, whom he met at an "Irritable Bowel Singles" weekend.
- Marlon Wayans as Gawain MacSam, the foul-mouthed, hotheaded janitor of the Bandit Queen Casino and the inside man.
- Ryan Hurst as Lump Hudson, the brawn of the group and a former football player who "is not very intelligent". He seldom speaks, and he at first refers to Dorr as "Coach".
- Diane Delano as Mountain Girl, Garth Pancake's female partner and right hand gal. She wears braids and dresses in mountain clothing.
- George Wallace as Sheriff Wyner, the lazy sheriff of Saucier.
- Stephen Root as Mr. Gudge, the intolerant but weak-willed manager of the Bandit Queen Casino.
In the sequence where the gang begins to dump the corpses into the river to dispose of them, a garbage barge catches each fallen robber as he falls from the bridge, replacing the goods train used in the original 1955 British film classic.
The gag of the portrait changing expressions is taken from Preston Sturges' film Sullivan's Travels (1941). In an early adventure, Sullivan (Joel McCrea) escapes the advances of a sexually aggressive widow (Almira Sessions) by making a rope out of his bedsheet. The portrait of the late husband is duly shocked. In the original The Ladykillers, a photograph of the late captain "at the salute" is seen. Two of the Coens' previous films, Intolerable Cruelty and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, were also heavily influenced by Sturges.
|Music From the Motion Picture: The Ladykillers|
|Soundtrack album by various artists|
|Released||23 March, 2004|
|Label||Sony Music Soundtrax
|Producer||T Bone Burnett|
|Coen Brothers film soundtracks chronology|
|Music from the Movies|||
While Carter Burwell scored The Ladykillers, continuing his long-time collaboration with the Coen Brothers, the bulk of the soundtrack is devoted to African American gospel music, produced by T Bone Burnett, who had previously worked with the Coens in sourcing soundtrack music for The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
The soundtrack does not actually contain any pieces of Renaissance music. Similar to his work on O Brother, Burnett chose a mix of vintage songs by Blind Willie Johnson, The Soul Stirrers, Swan Silvertones and Bill Landford & The Landfordaires (the 1950s group sampled by Moby on "God's Gonna Cut You Down"), along with recordings of contemporary black gospel artists, including Donnie McClurkin, Rose Stone, Bill Maxwell and church choirs, made especially for the film soundtrack. Hip hop songs by Nappy Roots and Little Brother are also featured.
The soundtrack was praised for helping to set the tone of the film, distance it from the 1955 original and complement the contemporary Southern United States setting and gospel music atmosphere.
- "Come, Let Us Go Back to God" (The Soul Stirrers) – 2:50
- "Trouble of This World (Coming Home)" (Nappy Roots) – 3:48 (Featuring chorus by Rose Stone, Freddie Stone and Lisa Stone)
- "Let Your Light Shine on Me" (The Venice Four with Rose Stone and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir) – 6:43
- "Another Day, Another Dollar" (Nappy Roots) – 3:48
- "Jesus I'll Never Forget" (The Soul Stirrers) – 2:36
- "Trouble in, Trouble Out" (Nappy Roots) – 4:04
- "Trouble of This World" (Bill Landford & The Landfordaires) – 2:45 (Not featured in film)
- "Come, Let Us Go Back to God" (Donnie McClurkin) – 4:33
- "Weeping Mary" (Rosewell Sacred Harp Quartet) – 2:41
- "Sinners" (Little Brother) – 4:25
- "Troubled, Lord I'm Troubled" (Bill Landford & The Landfordaires) – 2:58
- "You Can't Hurry God" (Donnie McClurkin) – 2:26
- "Any Day Now" (The Soul Stirrers) – 2:28
- "Trouble of This World" (Rose Stone and the Venice Four and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir) – 2:55
- "A Christian's Plea" (Swan Silvertones) – 2:23
- "Let Your Light Shine on Me" (Blind Willie Johnson) – 3:07
- "Let the Light from the Lighthouse Shine on Me" (Rose Stone and the Venice Four and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir) – 1:42
- "Yes" (The Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir featuring Kristle Murden) – 5:29
- Additional music
- "Minuet" (3rd movement) from "String Quintet in E, Op. 13 No. 5", composed by Luigi Boccherini; which the gang pretends to play, echoing the original 1955 film.
- TonyB. (2004-03-26). "The Ladykillers Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic.com. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
- "The Ladykillers Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Uk.rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
- Music from the Movies
- Deming, Mark. "Allmovie". The Ladykillers review. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Phares, Heather. "Allmusic". The Ladykillers review. Retrieved August 19, 2007.
- Music from the Motion Picture: The Ladykillers (album liner notes). United States: Sony. 2004. CK 90896
- "Festival de Cannes: The Ladykillers". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
- The Ladykillers at the Internet Movie Database
- The Ladykillers at AllRovi
- The Ladykillers at Box Office Mojo
- The Ladykillers at Rotten Tomatoes