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Movie Review

The Ladykillers

MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references

Reviewed by: Chris Monroe

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Comedy and Crime/Gangster
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Featuring: Tom Hanks (Catch Me If You Can, Road to Perdition, Cast Away, The Green Mile)
Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie 2, Dungeons and Dragons)
Irma P. Hall (Something to Sing About, Beloved)
Ryan Hurst
Stephen Root
Director: Joel Coen (Bad Santa, Intolerable Cruelty, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski), Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski)
Producer: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Tom Jacobson, Barry Josephson, Barry Sonnenfeld
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks teams up for the first time with Academy Award®-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) for this retelling of the critically acclaimed 1955 comedy, “The Ladykillers.” Hanks stars as Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, Ph.D., a charlatan professor who’s assembled a gang of “experts” for the heist of the century. The thieves: experts in explosions, tunneling, and muscle, and the critical “inside man.” The base of operations: the root cellar of an unsuspecting, church-going little old lady named Mrs. Munson (IRMA P. HALL). The ruse: the five need a place to practice their church music. The problem: it quickly becomes evident that Dorr’s thieves lack the mental capacity to do the job. The bigger problem: they have all seriously underestimated their upstairs host.

When Mrs. Munson stumbles onto their plot and threatens to notify the authorities, the felonious five decide to do her in. After all, how hard can it be to knock off one old lady?”


“Thou shall not kill” is applicable to this eleventh Coen Brothers cinematic concoction, but more precisely is the idea that it is reprehensible to even attempt killing a faith-filled, respectable southern lady. “The Ladykillers” is another peculiar notch in the belt of outlandish comedies for filmmakers Joel and Ethan (Bad Santa, The Big Lebowski), which revels in immoral dealings but nevertheless rounds out with evil doing being brought to justice.

In a small town in Mississippi, Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr (Tom Hanks) inquires of renting a room and borrowing the cellar in the home of a sweet, church-going widow Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall). Dorr explains he needs the space to rehearse with his ensemble, but he’s really in cahoots with this varied “band” of characters to dig a tunnel from it to a nearby casino and thereby heist all of its money. The trick for these marauders is to hide their caper from the Christian woman whose home they’re using and retain their cover as musicians.

Contrasting the uprightness of Mrs. Munson, there is a host of sinful behavior committed by Dorr and his gang. Mrs. Munson is a regular church attender who knows and quotes the Bible and faithfully donates five dollars every month to the Christian school Bob Jones University. From the beginning, she is set up as a kind of upright “do-gooder” when she visits the local sheriff and complains about some young kids playing their “hippidy-hop” music too loud. She is the kind who is out to right what she thinks is wrong.

Copyright, Touchstone Pictures

Dorr and his gang, however, seem to break almost every one of the Ten Commandments. Their whole scheme is wrapped up in lying, stealing and killing—to name a few.

Gawain (Marlon Wayans) uses extreme profanity. Probably every foul word conceived was used by him, and done in excess. Gawain also uses a lot of crass sexual humor, and one of the scenes deals with how he slept with one of the casino patrons. There is no sex or nudity, but there is one close up of this girl’s backside as Gawain walks behind her and makes lewd remarks.

Ultimately, it doesn’t feel like the Coens really celebrate the “happy ending” in their films. They use them (i.e., Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou, Intolerable Cruelty), but it feels like they work within the framework of a moral universe because they know that it’s futile to do otherwise. For this reason, there are truths that can be extracted from their movies.

One truth that can be exemplified is from Proverbs 13:22, which says, “.the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” (NAS) Another is from Proverbs 28:13 which says, “No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who forsakes and confesses them will obtain mercy.” (NRSV) This second proverb can be seen in the confrontation when Mrs. Munson proposes a deal to Dorr, including an invitation for he and his friends to attend church with her.

Throughout the story, Dorr and Mrs. Munson seem to go head to head in their ideas about life. One night while they’re relaxing and reading, Dorr discusses the wisdom he gleans from reading various works of literature. Mrs. Munson challenges him and asks him if it’s the wisdom of God or wisdom of man. Dorr acknowledges the merits of the “Good Book,” but concludes with her that there are other good books, too. But, ultimately, it’s Mrs. Munson’s way of life that finally wins out.

While these inferences of good winning out over evil may ring true, the aspects intended to be enjoyed most are the shenanigans of the wrongdoers. (This is true with most Coen comedies). The film does have plenty of authentic humor and another cast of original characters. The entire script is very tight and, as always, genuinely entertaining. For Tom Hanks, it seems he thrives again in his comedic forte, and after the first few minutes you are wrapped up in his character and don’t even think about him as an actor.

This is another well-crafted piece of movie making, but the excessive foul language may deter many away from it. There is also some violence involved, although it is obviously intended for comedy rather than drama.

Violence: Mild | Profanity: Extreme | Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—…a waste of money and definitely not a movie for anyone professing to be a Christian. It has constant filthy language, using the Lord’s Name in vain continually. My wife and I walked out when we realized there was to be no letup in the cesspool language and from what we observed no redeeming quality to the movie at all.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Richard Cross, age 64
Negative—I’ve walked out of few movies, but I never thought I would walk out on a movie starring Tom Hanks. But this one took exception. We walked out after 45 minutes of continuous use of “mother f…” and other unbearable profanity from the black actors. Don’t waste your money on it.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
—Sid Owens, age 57
Positive—If you listen closely to the gospel music in the film, you’ll find that it’s a Greek chorus exhorting the bad guys to get themselves straight. Ms. Hall’s character could have been an out-and-out negative Christian stereotype, but it wasn’t. She was naive to the ways of the world, but wise about the ways of God. Those who can’t take the language and violence, should think twice before seeing this movie. However, there is a message that God will have His way in the end.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Hillari Hunter, age 42
Negative—I heard Michael Medved give this movie 3 stars, with the warning that it was rated “R” for language, but that it was the funniest movie so far this year. Although we rarely attend R-rated movies, I thought we could deal with a few bad words. With that recommendation, my husband and I viewed the movie last night. Although there were some humorous parts, the movie was ruined by continuous (saturating the movie) bad language. The foul-mouthed character was extremely lewd and made extremely offensive sexual remarks constantly. When he dies near the end of the movie, I was relieved so we didn’t have to be subjected to the language anymore. My husband actually turned to me and suggested leaving about one-third of the way through (something he NEVER does), but we decided to stay, hoping it would get better. It didn’t. Tom Hanks’ characterization also wears on you about half-way through. Not recommended for Christians who are choosy about their movies (we usually are, but made a bad choice on this one).
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
— Dana Chrysler, age 47
Negative—I rarely feel the need to make any comments about the few movies I see, good or bad, but Ladykillers is a DEFINITE exception. This movie was SO offensive that it is hard to describe. I left before it was over, because of the absolutely unnecessary, excessively foul language, and the disgracefully negative stereotyping of African American males. I do not know what Tom Hanks was thinking to attach his name to such a movie. It had no redeeming qualities, and should offend anyone with any basic moral good sense, and should DEEPLY offend Christians. I do not recommend it for ANYONE, least of all, Christians.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—Lisa S., age 44
Negative—My husband and I were very disappointed in this Tom Hanks movie. We walked out after 30 minutes of nothing but very offensive language. I have always enjoyed Tom Hanks movies and am very disappointed that an otherwise funny movie had to be spoiled by such offensive language.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Donna, age 56
Negative—My wife and I go to the movies 30-40 times per year. We don’t see too many R rated movies without first looking up a review to see why it is R rated. However, we thought a Tom Hanks movie would be okay and we really like him. Well, we learned a lesson… don’t depend on any Hollywood star to reflect your values in their work. An actor of Hanks’ stature lends credibility to this kind of garbage. You will be disappointed as we were with this movie. We walked out of the movie after about 30 or 40 minutes because of the extremely offensive verbal barrage. The couple sitting next to us walked out at the same time. I’ve been to a lot of movies… this is only the 2nd time I have walked out on one. I don’t claim to know much about writing, but I don’t think it would take much writing talent to come up with the lines we heard in this movie.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/3]
—Don McElroy, age 61
Negative—Although this movie was morally offensive, in many ways, I did find it to be very funny, the performance by Irma P.Hall and Tom Hanks was superb, the jokes about IBS were funny, as well as the Hitler mustache by the General. This movie should be only seen by mature audiences, now I am curious about seeing the original Ladykillers.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3½]
—Jack Jensen
Positive—Since so far everyone has had nothing but negative things to say about this movie, I feel obligated to come to its defense. The movie is of excellent quality, exactly as one would expect from the Coen Brothers. I also felt that it was extremely funny. It portrays a good message as well. As to its offensiveness, judging from the previous comments I would think it’s one of the most offensive movies ever made, which it most certainly is not. Sure, there is unnecessary language. It does not paint black people in a bad light, think about it, there’s maybe 2 black people in the movie who use that language… and all the other black people (there are quite a few of them) are churchgoers. It was real to the character, and while that may offend some people, I see no reason why this movie is any more offensive then the average R-rated movie. Those are just my thoughts.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Jason, age 21
Negative—My husband and I went, along with a neighbor who is not a Christian. We were shocked, after the initial scene with Tom Hanks, at the horrible unceasing profanity used in the other scenes. We got up and left, and our neighbor was as disgusted as we were. We were all disappointed that Tom Hanks would be associated with something like this, because we have always highly respected him and his movies. I’ve read it’s a funny movie, but we could not have gotten through the vile language to even see humor.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/3]
—Nancy, age 51
Negative—I find it very interesting that the majority of the reviewers thought that this movie was so terrible that they ended up leaving before it was finished. I also lasted probably about 45 minutes before walking out, and that I recall, this is the FIRST movie that I’ve EVER left before it was finished. From what I saw, it was the WORST movie I’ve ever seen regarding the use of profanity. The movie was a comedy, and most of the supposedly funny scenes I didn’t find to be funny at all (perhaps because many of these scenes were colored by so much of this unnecessary horrible language). Aside from that, the acting did seem good, but this doesn’t really matter (to me at least) when the actors’ material is of very poor quality. In retrospect, I am shocked that Tom Hanks would agree to play in such a movie.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
—Jonathan Kendall, age 25
Negative15 minutes is enough to know this is a bad movie. Against my better instincts I watched the whole thing hoping that it would get better. Dialogue goes from the sublime (Hanks) to the ridiculous (Wayans). Yes, the swearing is over the top but there are people like that. (Although I shouldn’t pay to hear it). The script and screenwriting is poor and you don’t buy into the story at all. Hanks forced southern accent adds to the frustration and gets downright irritating after a while. Although the limited scenes of the southern town and the house interior are visually interesting the movie appears designed with the small screen in mind due to the extensive use of facial closeups. Rent the Guinness/Sellers original it is a true classic.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
—Bill, age 49
Positive—I really enjoyed this film. There is a lot of bad language that will offend some people, but there is hardly anything else offensive in this film except the language. I thought that Tom Hanks gave his best performance in years. All of the others in the cast, especially Hall and except Wayans, were also excellent. Wayans was totally unnecessary in the film since he used all of the film’s profanity. Being a Christian, I loved the fact that God triumphed overall in this. All of the bad guys got what they deserved due to the hand of GOD. Irma P Hall, a devoted Christian, got blessed by GOD at the end of the film. Irma P Hall should be an example for other actresses. There are a lot of gospel songs in this film that I hummed when I left the theater. I am surprised that people are leaving the theater during the film. Overall, I enjoyed this movie and plan on buying the DVD when it is released…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4½]
—Brad Leonard, age 19
Positive—…Our protagonists are a group of hapless criminals, all of whom are grossly over exaggerated forms of a particular race or profession, and the antagonist, who is a generally believable Christian old lady. It seems to be the trend in Hollywood these days to make films that glorify the bad guy, and make breaking the law, particularly theft, seem perfectly okay (Think Ocean’s 11, The Italian Job, just to name a few…). In this film, there is never a debate as to whether these men are good or bad. They are continually depicted as bad men, and without spoiling the ending, they actually do end up getting punished… evil doesn’t prevail in this film. I think that this is a moral high note in movies. For the first time, greedy people who steal get what’s coming to them. This is a legacy of films that goes back to The Treasure of the Sierra Madres and probably further back than that. Greed will kill you. That was the thesis of the Coen’s Fargo from a few years back. This is essentially a tongue-in-cheek version of that movie set in a dark-comedy. I will put it this way, if you don’t like the f-word, don’t go see this movie… is used to an excess in this film almost comedically to show just how stereo typical Marlon Wayans’ character really is. This is a good movie, with a surprisingly moral message…
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Tom Breimaier, age 19
Negative—I’m not trying to sound like a broken record, and I only read these comments today. Last week my wife and I, along with my mother went to this movie. We, along with everyone else, thought it would be a nice comedy with Hanks. We also WALKED OUT after about 20 minutes. I am by no means a prude. I am a police officer/ex-military, and I struggle with swearing at my job as everyone constantly uses this sort of language, but this movie was unbelieveable. The amount of swearing in this movie was to such an extent that it had to be done intentionally to get a reaction, be it bad or good from the audience.

It totally took over the movie, and I am very disappointed with Mr. Hanks in this role. I would not recommend this to anyone who is attempting to live a Christian life. Absolutely worthless.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
—J. Falcon, age 29
Positive—Okay, the only reason I’m giving this a positive rating is because of Hanks and Hall. Yes, the film is offensive to the ear due to its incessant foul language; having said that please understand that I got a great revelation of good vs. evil. When Prof. Dorr knocks on the door and the cat “senses” something is amiss about this seemingly harmless gentleman, I thought about how the devil comes to us as an angel of light when in fact he is out to steal, kill and destroy. Also, you can see how the “spirit” that was working in the Professor “rose” up when Ms. Munson suggested that he and his crew attend church with her… his rely was “And engage in divine worship?” all the while hissing and spitting as if it were the most reprehensible thing in the world, and in fact he stated he would rather (almost) go to jail than go to church. That’s just a sample of the spiritual connection that I got out of it, but as I stated the language is without a doubt EXCESSIVE.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4½]
Negative—My girlfriend and I saw this movie last evening. I just read the comments of other viewers, and I am SHOCKED to see any positive rating. If you are a Christian, how can you rate something positive that breaks one of the 10 commandments 10-15 times? I can bear most profanity as just of the world, however, when they take my Holy God’s name in vain as if it is nothing, I can’t see ANY christian going and listening and viewing such TRASH!!! I am SO disappointed in Tom Hanks. Until this movie, I was a true fan of his. I feel totally betrayed and tricked by him for using what I consider a wholesome image to lure his fans into a film that is total TRASH!! I’ll never see another Tom Hanks movie-PERIOD!!
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
Positive—Don’t take your kids to see this. If you can look past the language, this is an EXCELLENT movie! The plot is brilliant, and the contrast of characters is entertaining to see the least. Again, if you’re the type of person who is not offended by foul language, you will walk out of this movie with a smile.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Jason Marquardt, age 21
Negative—I am disappointed with Tom Hanks. Usually he does great movies, this is an exception! The acting is fine but the storyline is not worth it. There is an extreme amount of swearing. Crime is the main focus of this film… lies and betrayal. Don’t waste your money or your mind.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Laurie, age 24
Positive—…there is too much profanity, and usage of the Lord’s name in vain in the latest Coen Brother’s film, The Lady Killers. They are 100% right. However, the artistic merit, script, and storyline of this re-make was excellent, and clever. Arguably, one of the best works by the Coen brothers thus far. The genius of this film is perhaps only second to Hudsucker Proxy, another Coen Brother’s film you should definitely catch if you have not yet seen!!

A great many on this site were offended with the verbal onslaught of foul language, and vulgarity that poured out of Marlon Wayan’s mouth. This is understandable, and quite tiring, it is not the language that Christian’s should condone, or participate in. This being said, I would like to point out that this is a movie about a heist, Casino robbers, out to thieve a safe in a Boat Casino on the Mississippi. The trailers, and various print, and television advertisements make this very clear. The Film also has an “R” rating… The entire premise of this movie is an ungodly one, and centers on a band of desperate criminals, and thieves who are commiting a grand crime!!! WHAT DO YOU EXPECT????? Do you really think people like this would speak politely, and not use foul words, and trash talk? I’m sorry to say, but not in today’s world. Again, I am not condoning, nor approving this type of language, but the “R” rating due to the language, and mild violence suits it well.

Another point I’d like to make is Mr. Wayan’s character Gawain seems to be doing 95-98% of the swearing. I think this was another one of the many details the Coen Brothers use in their films to show emphasis on certain aspects, or traits of character. Gawain was vile, loud, chauvinistic, and rude, much more so than the rest of his cohorts. I don’t think it is a coincidence that he is the one using almost all of the profanity, that so earned the film its “R” rating. This was actually the point!!! This guy was a pathetic criminal bank robber, a hip-hop music fan, who was too ignorant, foolish, and obviously was not right with the Lord, to use any intelligent words, and subjected others to the only 2-3 foul words he knew. While I do agree the screenwriters, and directors, could have toned down some of Wayan’s foul-mouth explanative, this negative factor was far outweighed by stellar performances by Tom Hanks, and Irma P. Hall, and an otherwise great, great script.

The devotion that Irma P. Hall shows by attending church services every Sunday, and donating $5 a month to Bob Jones Christian University, is very charitable and Christian. The church scenes with the boisterous, singing black Pastor who lectures to his all black southern congregation on the meaning of the verb “smote” in the Bible are hilarious, and really worth seeing!!!… All the while, the Choir is singing songs that glorify God!! I think the messages in these scenes are very powerful, and prove the main character, Irma P Hall’s devotion, and love for the Lord. Without giving away too much, she definitely glorifies the Lord, and remains righteous throughout, especially at the ending of the film.

We also see the genius performance of Tom Hanks, who plays Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III. A seemingly mild mannered, educated, Southern literature professor with a PhD, who is posing as a musician, and renting a room from Mrs. Munson. He is actually a conniving, desperate, on-the-lamb career criminal looking to pull off his big heist. With his southern accent, and oft-poetically comedic dialogue he swoons his unsuspecting victims, and manipulates them into doing his bidding. There tends to be lots of calamity, and discord among the band of thieves, as they are all very different minded. They argue, bicker, and disagree so much that Hanks must organize, and focus them constantly of their goal to pull off the robbery. His leadership and delegation of this crew is just too comical, and makes the film funny!!! It is extremely amusing to watch him lead his gang of misfits in this manner, whilst trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Irma P. Halls’ Mrs. Munson character.

In summary, while I do agree the profanity is at times quite excessive, and tiring, and it does detract from the more positive aspects of the film, the comedic timings of Hanks and Hall are classic, and make the movie excellent. I was able to look past the foul language of the film, and enjoyed the Christian themes, and hilariously-suspicious poetic verse of Hanks. Christians should only see this movie, if they can stomach a tirade of profanity, mainly from one ignorant supporting character. However, they will find a well cast, overall excellent story, and a spectacular performance by Tom Hanks.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Joey Cucchiaro, age 27
Negative—I attended this movie with my niece, daughter in law, sister in law and a friend. We were all in shock that Tom Hanks would sign on to do a movie with as much filthy language as this contained. I am a Christian and was offended by the talk, but found myself staying until the end hoping it would get better and the language would settle down. I, too, was glad when the foul mouthed person was shot. It did stop then but it was too late as the movie was almost over. All I can say is… It would have been funny and very entertaining without the trash talk! Why Hollywood thinks we have to have that is beyond me. Give us a break! I know I’m from another generation, but I consider myself as someone who moves with the times… BUT color me “standing still” with this one.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
—P. Patrick, age 60+
Positive—I was so sad with the continuous use of the “F” word, but I loved the movie! For anyone who enjoys a good twist in movies, this one is great. The humor, the wonderful performance by Tom Hanks, it was great.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/5]
—Jaclyn, age 20

Comments from young people
Negative—We saw a total of about 8 minutes of the film before we walked out. It started off really calm and it was alright—no cussing. Then out of the blue two guys started talking, and I wanted to plug my ears. They probably said the “F” word at least 15 times in about 4 minutes! It was completely unnecessary and we went and got our money back.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
—Angie, age 17
Negative—I am officially appalled!!! Ashamed to say I even saw this… and this only because the movie theater had a PG-13 rating for this movie. I went to see this movie under the impression that, “hey Tom Hanks has yet to make a bad movie, this one has to be at least fair, and the previews looked pretty funny.” Well… it ends there. Yes, the previews were funny, but the movie… well if you thought the movie was funny, we have some serious issues people. The fact anyone can say this movie was good or even relatively good, makes me say, you need to really examine yourself.

Within the first minute or two the movie started off (very slow have you) it felt calm, it felt clean, it felt like I was about to sit in the theater for two hours bored to no end. Then they splashed in all the color. It wasn’t within the next 2 mins. that I heard the “f” word used over 20 times (maybe over-exaggerated). Look I’m a guy who likes to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and I am not the kind of person that would walk out of the theater, but I definitely did.

To close my comment, I have to say: There is a real issue if you did not have a problem with the language presented in this film. People are getting very desensitized these days. I myself will first hand say that I may not feel that the occasional swear is wrong, because every movie has a swear in it. Its almost to the point where you just “accept” that a swear in the theater is okay, but this movie definitely took a hard turn here. It saddens me that they made a movie like this… it saddens me that people could actually enjoy this… it saddens me that this is what things are coming to.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1]
—Rob, age 17

Movie Critics
…Wayans’… potty mouth …wins the film an otherwise completely unnecessary R rating…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…While (Irma P.) Hall is steady as a rock, comic but believable in her moral strength, the rest of the cast seems either to be flailing or posing…
—Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
…chuckle-worthy… don’t expect much narrative momentum from G.H.’s perpetually squabbling brigands…
—Steve Schneider, Orlando Weekly
…most of the comedy falls very flat…
—William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
…The music of the Soul Stirrers, Bill Landford and the Landfordaires, Blind Willie Johnson and the Swan Silvertones has been assembled to divert our attention from the great movie the Coen brothers might have made instead. And that’s the gospel truth…
—Bruce Newman, The Mercury News
Tom Hanks is terrific giving his first flat-out comic performance in years…
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post