The Ladykillers

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Director: Joel Coen
Running time: 104 minutes
Language: English
Open May 22
[See Japan Times movie listings]

The Coen brothers take a massive Hollywood home-run swing with their latest, "The Ladykillers," and you can almost hear the sound of whiffing air while you're watching the film. If you thought the Coens were getting a bit off track with "Intolerable Cruelty" -- a decent but fairly rote star-vehicle/romantic comedy -- "The Ladykillers" is where they jump the rails.

First off, it's a remake of the 1955 classic that paired Alec Guinness across Peter Sellars. Second, it's a TOM HANKS film, no doubt about that in the billing. While neither of these things is necessarily the kiss of death, they are cause for concern: Hollywood remakes are not generally known for improving on the originals, while Hanks hasn't exactly been lighting the screen on fire lately, with his ponderous gravitas in "Road to Perdition" and his forgettable G-Man in "Catch me if you Can."

On the plus side, the Coens penned the script -- something they didn't do with "Intolerable Cruelty" -- and they are true fans of the original (they even paid a little homage to it in their debut, "Blood Simple"). The premise from the original has largely remained the same -- band of bumbling criminal geniuses find their best-laid plans foiled by a little old lady -- but the Coens move it to a Deep South setting, giving them the opportunity to throw in a rousing gospel soundtrack, and further mine the territory that brought them huge success with "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"