Monday, January 23, 2017

The Ladykillers (2004)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

WARNING:  I will be giving away major plot points, including the ending.

Sometimes, I have to wonder if it could really be that easy. Tom Hanks plays Goldthwait Higginson Dorr, Ph.D. He's a man with a plan to rob a riverboat casino. He has a way with words, which one does not often encounter. He assembles a crew to help him with his robbery, but he first has to actually get to the money. That's where Marva Munson comes in. She's a 60-something widow with a room to let. She hates "hippity-hop" music and is always complaining to the sheriff about the neighbor playing it or some other nuisance.

She also has a basement that seems to be missing a wall, which presents Dorr with the access that he needs to get to the money. He rents the room and sets up the ruse. He calls in his team, telling Munson that they are a band of musicians. They 'practice' in the basement, so as not to 'disturb' Mrs. Munson.

Garth Pancake, played by J. K. Simmons, is a munitions expert and is responsible for digging the tunnel. (Fans of Law & Order will recognize Simmons as Dr. Emil Skoda.) Pancake seems to know his stuff. Sure, he blows off a finger, but he gets to the money. I should also mention that he has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which causes him to have to use the men's room at an inopportune time. (This is a real condition, which is hyped up a little for the movie.)

There's also Gawain MacSam, played by Marlon Wayans. He's the inside guy. He's necessary not only for the layout and workings of the casino and office, but to help cover their tracks later on. MacSam seems to have a tendency to get smacked around.

Lump is a football player who's used for brute force. They have to get rid of the debris from the tunnel by carrying it out and throwing it onto a garbage scow. Lump is very helpful in that respect.

The General, a chain smoker, rounds out the group. I believe his area of contributions are planning and discipline. He's very stern when anyone wants to change the plan or back out of something. His smoking also gets him in trouble with Mrs. Munson, who has a strict no-smoking policy.

The plan to steal the money is to dig a tunnel to the office, which is underground, and steal the money from the safe. They'll then take the money back to the basement and collapse the tunnel. MacSam will seal up the wall in the office's safe room, so that the money looks like it simply vanished. The five members of the crew will split up the money and go their separate ways.

There are just a few small problems along the way. The only major problem is that Mrs. Munson figures out that something's up when she sees the money. Dorr says that it's Pancake's money from a mortgage, but Munson doesn't buy it. Dorr eventually tells her what's going on and tries to convince her not to say anything, but she decides against. She gives Dorr and his crew two options: Either return the money and then to go to church with her or go to jail. Dorr and crew agree that neither option is acceptable and decide to kill her. They try, but in the end, all five of them end up dead and, ironically, Mrs. Munson gets to keep the money, which she donates to her favorite university.

The acting was good. There were a few problems that I had with the plot. First off, I hate it when a plan like this goes off well enough that the criminals carry out the crime, but they don't get the money for reasons other than being caught. They almost got away; all they had to do was leave town. Killing Mrs. Munson was just a way to rid themselves of witnesses and shouldn't have been that difficult for five grown men to do. It was a great plot carried out by five people that will never get to enjoy their ill-gotten games.

Also, they blow up the tunnel they used to steal the money, but there's no indication of any after effects. From what I could tell, there were only three stories to the house: Upstairs, downstairs, and the basement. The downstairs level was at street level, which meant that the roof of the tunnel couldn't have been more than a few feet from the actual street. The crew should have had to worry about the tunnel caving in while they were working. They should have also had to worry about the finishing explosion collapsing the ground and houses above it.

One final point: The crew is talking in a restaurant; it's amazing that no one overhears them and decides to tip off the authorities. Dorr was worried about the sheriff finding him at several points in the movie. This isn't a major point; I'm sure it happens all the time. As I've said before, comedies can get away with a bit more. The movie is usually just a method of delivering jokes, of which there were plenty. (The Waffle Hut scene is great.)

The only problem with the acting was Tom Hanks, who I though put too much into the role. If you've seen the commercials, you've seen what I'm talking about. He comes across as very goofy and bizarre. It really stands out. I don't feel that it detracted from the movie that much, though.

I give the movie four stars. 

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