A Southern gentleman and his crew set up shop in an old woman's
basement so they can tunnel through to a casino and rob the place.
The Ladykillers (2004)
Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons,
Tzi Ma, Ryan Hurst, Diane Delano, George Wallace, Stephen Root
Remake of 1955's The Ladykillers
The Ladykillers is a bizarre Coen film that is often overlooked despite being a funny reimagining of a British classic that is now set in the American South. It has a great ensemble led by a wildly eccentric Tom Hanks in one of the only films to date in which he's played a villain. It has that particular Coen tone that's unmistakable and charms the audience much like Professor G.H. Dorr himself. Sure, it's a little rough around the edges, but it has a perfect poetic symmetry that only the Coens can pull off without appearing pretentious.
Hanks plays the charmingly bizarre Professor G.H. Dorr, who rents a room from Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall), an old black churchgoing woman who he's conning in order to get into her basement. There, Dorr and his crew begin to tunnel through her basement wall to the riverboat casino vault just beyond the wall. The crew consists of Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons, Tzi Ma, and Ryan Hurst, all of whom give hilarious performances as a heist crew that is equal parts skilled and totally inept. As with most heist movies, things don't go exactly as planned and a little improvisation is needed, leading to a wild third act that is fitting for such a strange movie.
I enjoyed The Ladykillers and I don't think it gets enough credit for what it is. It's like some odd combination of Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou? that managed to slip through the cracks and get critically panned. Speaking as a Coen fan, it deserves another look. It holds up well, and there are moments here that are absolutely hilarious.