The Ladykillers

The Coen brothers have worked with some of Hollywood’s finest talent and have sparked the careers of many new stars. While they lack the box office success of some of their brother-duo counterparts like the Wachowskis, Weitz, and even the Farrellys, the Coen brothers have made consistent quality films with imaginative stories, clever dialogue and above all, classic, unique, and thoroughly fascinating characters. In their next film (after the upcoming “Intolerable Cruelty”) they show no signs of letting up.

(Warning: Major plot points revealed ahead)

“The Ladykillers” will star Tom Hanks in a film based on the 1955 Alec Guinness film of the same name, about a crew of eccentric casino robbers. No other members of the cast have been announced as of yet, but with an ample supply of originals and favorites, the Coens are sure to find the perfect fit for each of the films standout characters. The script reads like a cross between “Ocean’s Eleven” and “O Brother Where Art Thou”, set in modern times, but in the deep reaches of the South. “The Ladykillers” proffer up a gang of misfits who have joined together for the sole purpose of knocking off the floating casino that is The Lady Luck; an old steamroller that traverses the Mississippi. The Lady Luck is a cash cow, but a floating target makes the task at hand a little more complicated than an old smash and grab job. Professor Dorr, the ringleader of the crew and mastermind behind the heist, gains the assistance of the elderly Ms. Munson. Ms. Munson is an unsuspecting widow who hasn’t let go of her dear Othar. His portrait hangs over the mantle of her home where she talks to him as if he had never passed. She has a passion for the Lord, a stern set of rules, and, most importantly, a room to rent. By putting an ad in the local newspaper, Dorr puts together an unlikely band of criminals, which he passes off to Ms. Munson as a band of Renaissance musicians.

The band is made up of several, very unique miscreants. Pancake is a self-proclaimed ‘master’ of explosives with a tendency for misfortune (William H. Macy would slip perfectly into this role). The General is an agile man with tunneling experience from his days in Vietnam, but with very little to say. Gawain is a load mouth, troublemaking, misfit with a short temper, but an inside job with The Lady Luck. Lump is a high school football player and an outright dolt who serves as the brute force for the crew.

They all ‘practice’ together in Ms Munson’s root cellar, but not one of them know how to play a single note. Instead all of their time is spent tunneling straight for the back door of The Lady Luck’s impenetrable vault. Professor Dorr is a well-educated, smooth talking, unsuspecting man, with a passion for the works of Edger Allen Poe. He woos old Ms. Munson into believing his little lies through all the little bumps and snags the group encounters. But when things go awry on the big night, her suspicions cannot be quelled. The group is faced with a difficult choice: give up the money and find religion, or find themselves in a jail cell.

Like other Coen films before, “The Ladykillers” is chock full of witty dialogue, clever scenes, and a generous landscape. The characters are just as original and genuine as ever before and the predicaments they find themselves in cater to some hilarious interactions. What I love about the Coens, is that they consistently bring the same great elements to their films, but never grow stale. “The Ladykillers” is a prime example of how capable they are of bringing their unique style and creative edge to whatever project they take on.

The presence of Tom Hanks in the lead role, will not only make for an enjoyable film, but should also help the Coen brothers make an impact at the box office. The script was a brisk, but enjoyable read with several laughs and great scenes that I am already looking forward to seeing on the screen. I give the script a rather biased A+, but feel that this film will appeal to fans and newcomers alike. This draft, dated May 8, 2001, is adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen from the original 1955 film of the same name.

Rating: A+
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