The Ladykillers, by the Coen Brothers, definitely qualifies among overlooked movies of recent years. So if you can, give Tom Hanks a gander as he heads a quartet of unlikely compatriots who join to rob a floating casino.
As "Professor" Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr – studier of dead languages – Hanks provides both the brains and the comedy backbone. But first we’re introduced to the sleepy southern town and its complacent sheriff, whose campaign slogan is “reelect Sheriff Wyner because he’s too old to work.” Steeped in its God fearing ways with him, they aim to keep it simple.
Marva Munson serves as our ambassador and the focal point for the aforementioned crime wave. An unrepentant lover of the lord and the memory of her long passed husband, Marva is all business when it comes to right and wrong. “You know they call it hippity hop music but it don’t make me want to go hippity hop,” she lectures Sheriff Wyner.
A Knock at the Door casts a Shadow
Even so, all is good as she contently subsists with her faithful cat “Pickles” and contemplates rejoining her husband in the hereafter. This all while his judgmental stare guides from the portrait above her mantle. That’s until the professor’s knock on the door casts a shadow seemingly sent by God himself.
Can't Fool a Cat
Pickles, a step ahead of the ominousness, takes flight for the oak outside and Marva is not a loss for words. “Go fetch Pickles,” she demands and holds the high ground.
The professor is up to the task. “I do apologize but won’t the feline eventually tire of his lonely perch, and pining for his master’s affection, return of his own initiative,” Hanks masterfully lays the groundwork for dialogue that leaves one wondering how this came to sit with other overlooked movies.
Nonetheless, Hanks is forced to ascend and begins his fall from grace as the ancient tree is unable to support him or the plot he’s about to unfold. Still, he secures Marva’s available room and rehearsal space for his Renaissance era “musicians” in her basement.
Meet the Lineup of Evil Doers
Connected to the bank housing the casino winnings, the plan is afoot. Thus, we meet the players.
Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans) is the inside man. A Hip-hop tongued janitor, his vernacular brings the endeavor back to street level in laugh out loud abundance. “What up my nigga,” Wayans’ pride and disdain take precedence the first time he meets the casino boss
J.K. Simmons as Garth Pancake serves as the demolitions’ expert. Clad in safari shorts, high socks and boots, his diligent commitment to detail and easy approach to obstacles mostly amounts to incompetence. In demonstrating the C4, he blows off his finger and shakes it off. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” he demurs.
Lump, on the other hand, as the operation’s muscle, lacks the mental stability to muster the explosive miscue or much of the English language. “Blood, Blood, Blood,” he panics at the severed digit.
The General, a tunneler in the French Indochina War, also dishes on providing much dialogue, and in this case, slaps the monstrosity into submission.
Fortunately for the ensemble, the professor is able to placate Marva upon the mysterious explosion. "I will not have you missin your recital. I shall call the gas company or the water company – whatever subterranean utility is implicated in this contretemps,” he sees her off.
The Plan goes Awry
Of course, more things must go askew. Gawain’s ghetto ways are the first to give way. “Come over here and blow on these dice,” he tells a female customer, “You know, I’m a seven on the roll but a ten the hard way.”
His job lost, the professor then laments Pancake enlisting his beloved Mountain Girl to extract a large piece of Ignatius impeding their tunneling efforts. “I thought it was understood that when it came to our enterprise, mum was the word.”
Gawain is far less precise as the revelation is made at their conferencing location. “You brought yo bitch to the waffle hut,” he wails repeatedly until Pancake’s retaliation has Gawain pulling his piece.
But the professor placates again. “Please gentleman, this behavior does you no credit in the eyes of your colleagues, nor in those of the other patrons of this Waffle Hut,” he gets the group to accept the endeavor's enlargement.
God has the final say
Gawain getting his job back, the job goes off perfectly until the explosive device to reseal the tunnel fails. “It is the essence of this plan that the money should simply vanish without a trace to not only make our caper intellectually satisfying but is exigent as a matter of fact,” Hanks doctors the dilemma for Pancake and a respectable place among other crime conspiracy movies.
As such, Pancake goes gung ho into the tunnel and narrowly escapes death, while Gawain’s street smart explains away the mysterious noise at the casino end. “You fart,” he redirects the happily obese safe attendee.
But the affront to God is missed by our players. Specifically, the fatal presumption that they could outsmart their destinies. “Let us go back to God,” the opening hymm foretells and points the finger of doom.