Starring Tom Hanks, J. K. Simmons, Stephen Root. Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
Running Time: 104 mins

It seems to be remake season. The Ladykillers is based on the Alec Guinness' classic film of 1955. There are just a few differences. The outline of the story is basically the same, but the Coen brothers have transferred the action to the southern USA and turned the Guinness character into a young Colonel Sanders look-a-like.

Professor G. H. Dorr (Hanks) plans to rob Saurier's Casino of $1.6 million. He gathers together a group of petty thieves to help him dig a tunnel into the casino's vault. The good Professor discovers that the best place from which to start his tunnelling is the basement of Mrs Marva Munson's home (Irma P. Hall). It is also provides a great cover and is a decent hideout. So the gang of six gather for work most days under the pretence that they are devoted chamber music players and that they need the good acoustics of Mrs Munson's basement for their rehearsals. Dissension in the criminal ranks and an increasingly suspicious Mrs Munson threaten to undermine Dorr's plans. When Mrs Munson discovers the plot Dorr decides she must be dealt with.

The Coen brothers' work is an acquired taste, usually filled with visual flair and eccentric intelligence. What drew them to The Ladykillers is a mystery, but more mysterious still is why this film carries none of their trademark style.

The only remnant of the Coen's usual approach, of which we have grown to know and disagree about, is the crudity and violent language in the script, and the amorality of the central character. Hank's Professor Dorr is bereft of any ethical compass. Anyone in his road is despatched quicker than an order of KFC.

With these reservations The Ladykillers is above average entertainment. The best thing in it is Carter Burwell's Gospel soundtrack. You might be better off to buy the CD and wait for the DVD.

Fr Richard Leonard is Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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