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The Ladykillers (2004 film)

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Title: The Ladykillers (2004 film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Irma P. Hall, Ryan Hurst, Stephen Root, No Country for Old Men (film), T Bone Burnett
Collection: 2000S Comedy Films, 2000S Crime Films, 2000S Thriller Films, 2004 Films, American Black Comedy Films, American Comedy Thriller Films, American Crime Thriller Films, American Criminal Comedy Films, American Films, American Remakes of British Films, English-Language Films, Film Remakes, Film Scores by Carter Burwell, Films Directed by the Coen Brothers, Films Set in 1996, Films Set in Mississippi, Films Shot in California, Films Shot in Los Angeles, California, Films Shot in Mississippi, Heist Films, Touchstone Pictures Films, Vietnamese-Language Films
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The Ladykillers (2004 film)

This article is about the 2004 remake. For the original, see The Ladykillers.
The Ladykillers
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Produced by Ethan Coen
Joel Coen
Tom Jacobson
Barry Sonnenfeld
Barry Josephson
Screenplay by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Based on The Ladykillers 
by William Rose
Starring Tom Hanks
Irma P. Hall
Marlon Wayans
J. K. Simmons
Tzi Ma
Ryan Hurst
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
(as Roderick Jaynes)
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • March 26, 2004 (2004-03-26)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million
Box office $76.7 million

The Ladykillers is a 2004 American black comedy thriller film directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The Coens' screenplay was based on the 1955 British Ealing comedy film of the same name written by William Rose. The remake was produced by the Coens, Tom Jacobson, Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson. It stars Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J. K. Simmons, Tzi Ma and Ryan Hurst.

This was the first film in which Joel and Ethan Coen share both producing and directing credits; previously Joel had always been credited as director and Ethan as producer.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Development 3
  • Production 4
  • Reception 5
  • Soundtrack 6
  • Awards 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Mrs. Marva Munson, a religious, elderly widow, meets "Professor" Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, who expresses interest in the room she has for rent and asks to use her root cellar for rehearsals of an early music ensemble he directs, to which she agrees. The fellow musicians in the pretend ensemble are actually a gang of criminals. The band are composed of a dim football player named Lump as the "muscle", the mustachioed and khaki bedecked Garth Pancake as the "jack of all trades" (who suffers from IBS), the foul mouthed Gawain McSam as their "inside man", and the Vietnamese, chain-smoking General as their tunneling expert (who hides his smoking habit from the disapproving Mrs. Munson by concealing his cigarette in his mouth). The group of criminals plan to dig a tunnel through the earthen wall in the cellar in order to break into the underground vault for a nearby riverboat casino. The earth they remove is taken out at night and tossed off a bridge onto a garbage barge as it passes below.

A series of mishaps threaten to derail their plan, including "inside man" Gawain losing his janitorial job at the casino, Garth losing a finger during an accidental detonation of plastic explosive (whereupon the digit is stolen by Mrs. Munson's cat), and a visit from the local sheriff. Nonetheless, the group manages to break through the wall of the vault and snatch the loot. Before the group can get away, Mrs. Munson uncovers the plot and tells Dorr to return the money and go with her to church on Sunday, or face the authorities. Dorr attempts to persuade her otherwise, by claiming that the casino's insurance company will replace the money, resulting in each shareholder only losing a single penny. He also claims he will donate a full share of the stolen funds to Bob Jones University, a Bible college which Mrs. Munson admires, but she insists on her judgment.

The gang decides they have no choice but to murder her. None of them are eager to kill an old woman, so they draw straws. The task falls to Gawain, but he fails to go through with it after he realizes Mrs. Munson reminds him of his mother. This starts a fight between Garth and Gawain, which results in Gawain being fatally shot with his own gun; the group dumps his body off the bridge onto the trash barge. Garth then attempts to steal the entire sum of money and escape with his girlfriend, "Mountain Girl," but the General kills them both with a wire garotte and discards their bodies onto the barge. After drawing lots again, the General is about to kill Mrs. Munson in her sleep, concealing his cigarette in his mouth as per usual. He is suddenly startled by a clock, accidentally swallowing his cigarette. In a frenzied search for water, The General trips over Mrs. Munson's cat, and falls down the stairs to his death. As Lump and Dorr dispose of The General's body onto the barge, Lump has a change of heart and tells Dorr he wants to do what Mrs. Munson says. When Dorr refuses, Lump attempts to shoot him with a revolver, but the chamber is empty; he peers down the barrel and accidentally shoots himself with the round that was in the next chamber, falling off the bridge onto the barge. Dorr, now alone, pauses to quote some poetry; he is then struck in the head by a piece of a decaying grotesque, dislodged by a raven. As he tumbles off the bridge, his cape gets caught on the ironwork railing and hangs him, before it tears and he too finally falls onto the barge.

Mrs. Munson finds all the money in her basement and believes that the criminals fled and decided to leave the money. She informs the police about the money, but believing her to be insane, they tell her to keep it; she decides to donate it to Bob Jones University. The film ends with Pickles dumping Garth's severed finger onto the barge. The credits start with Mrs. Munson's church singing.


  • Tom Hanks as Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, Ph. D, the mastermind of the casino heist. He is the chatty Southern dandy who rents Mrs. Munson's apartment as a stage for the robbery. Dorr is very articulate, charming, and is somewhat pretentious. He is a recognizable parody of some of William Faulkner's characters and also bears some resemblance to Manly Pointer in Flannery O'Connor's Good Country People.
  • Irma P. Hall as Marva Munson, a well-meaning, God-fearing elderly widow. She shares her name with the judge in the previous Coen film Intolerable Cruelty.
  • Marlon Wayans as Gawain MacSam, the foul-mouthed, hotheaded janitor of the Bandit Queen Casino and the inside man.
  • J. K. Simmons as Garth Pancake, a garrulous demolitions expert who suffers from IBS. He has a female partner, Mountain Girl, whom he met at an "Irritable Bowel Singles" weekend.
  • Tzi Ma as "The General", the often silent owner of the Hi-Ho Donut store in the town. It is strongly implied that he gained his rank and experience tunneling for the Vietcong.
  • Ryan Hurst as Lump Hudson, the brawn of the group and a former football player who "is not very intelligent". He seldom speaks, and he at first refers to Dorr as "Coach".
  • Diane Delano as Mountain Girl, Pancake's female partner and right hand gal. She wears braids and dresses in mountain clothing.
  • George Wallace as Sheriff Wyner, the lazy sheriff of Saucier.
  • Stephen Root as Mr. Gudge, the intolerant but weak-willed manager of the Bandit Queen Casino.
  • Greg Grunberg as TV commercial director
  • Jeremy Suarez as Li'l Gawain
  • Bruce Campbell (uncredited cameo) as Humane Society worker


At one point the film was to have been directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, the Coens' former cinematographer. The Coens were originally commissioned to write the screenplay only. When Sonnenfeld backed out, the Coens were eventually hired as directors, with Sonnenfeld retaining a producer credit.


In the sequence where the gang begins to dump the corpses into the river to dispose of them, a garbage barge catches each fallen robber as he falls from the bridge, replacing the goods train used in the original 1955 British film classic.

The gag of the portrait changing expressions is taken from Preston Sturges' film Sullivan's Travels (1941). In an early adventure, Sullivan (Joel McCrea) escapes the advances of a sexually aggressive widow (Almira Sessions) by making a rope out of his bedsheet. The portrait of the late husband is duly shocked. In the original The Ladykillers, a photograph of the late captain "at the salute" is seen. Two of the Coens' previous films, Intolerable Cruelty and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, were also heavily influenced by Sturges.


The film received mixed reviews, scoring a 56/100 average on Metacritic.[2] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored 55%.[3]


Music From the Motion Picture: The Ladykillers
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released 23 March 2004
Genre Gospel
Hip hop
Length 61:50
Label Sony Music Soundtrax
Producer T Bone Burnett
Coen Brothers film soundtracks chronology
Intolerable Cruelty
The Ladykillers
No Country for Old Men
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [4]
SoundtrackNet [5]
Music from the Movies [6]

While Carter Burwell composed the film score for The Ladykillers, continuing his long-time collaboration with the Coen Brothers, much of the soundtrack is devoted to African American gospel music. The film's executive music producer was T Bone Burnett, who had previously worked with the Coens in sourcing soundtrack music for The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

The soundtrack does not actually contain any pieces of Renaissance music. Similar to his work on O Brother, Burnett chose a mix of vintage songs by Blind Willie Johnson, The Soul Stirrers, Swan Silvertones and Bill Landford & The Landfordaires (the 1950s group sampled by Moby on "God's Gonna Cut You Down"), along with recordings of contemporary black gospel artists, including Donnie McClurkin, Rose Stone, Bill Maxwell and church choirs, made especially for the film soundtrack. Hip hop songs by Nappy Roots and Little Brother are also featured.

The soundtrack was praised for helping to set the tone of the film, distance it from the 1955 original and complement the contemporary Southern United States setting and gospel music atmosphere.[7][8]

  1. "Come, Let Us Go Back to God" (The Soul Stirrers) – 2:50
  2. "Trouble of This World (Coming Home)" (Nappy Roots) – 3:48 (Featuring chorus by Rose Stone, Freddie Stone and Lisa Stone)
  3. "Let Your Light Shine on Me" (The Venice Four with Rose Stone and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir) – 6:43
  4. "Another Day, Another Dollar" (Nappy Roots) – 3:48
  5. "Jesus I'll Never Forget" (The Soul Stirrers) – 2:36
  6. "Trouble in, Trouble Out" (Nappy Roots) – 4:04
  7. "Trouble of This World" (Bill Landford & The Landfordaires) – 2:45 (Not featured in film)
  8. "Come, Let Us Go Back to God" (Donnie McClurkin) – 4:33
  9. "Weeping Mary" (Rosewell Sacred Harp Quartet) – 2:41
  10. "Sinners" (Little Brother) – 4:25
  11. "Troubled, Lord I'm Troubled" (Bill Landford & The Landfordaires) – 2:58
  12. "You Can't Hurry God" (Donnie McClurkin) – 2:26
  13. "Any Day Now" (The Soul Stirrers) – 2:28
  14. "Trouble of This World" (Rose Stone and the Venice Four and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir) – 2:55
  15. "A Christian's Plea" (Swan Silvertones) – 2:23
  16. "Let Your Light Shine on Me" (Blind Willie Johnson) – 3:07
  17. "Let the Light from the Lighthouse Shine on Me" (Rose Stone and the Venice Four and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir) – 1:42
  18. "Yes" (The Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir featuring Kristle Murden) – 5:29
Additional music
  • "Minuet" (3rd movement) from "String Quintet in E, Op. 13 No. 5", composed by Luigi Boccherini; which the gang pretends to play, echoing the original 1955 film.
  • Produced by T Bone Burnett
  • Soundtrack executive producers: Joel and Ethan Coen
  • Associate gospel music producer: Bill Maxwell
  • Associate hip hop music producer: Keefus Ciancia[9]


The film won the Jury Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for Irma P. Hall's performance.[10]


  1. ^ (15)"THE LADYKILLERS".  
  2. ^ Tony B. (March 26, 2004). "The Ladykillers Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ "The Ladykillers Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ link
  5. ^ SoundtrackNet
  6. ^ Music from the Movies
  7. ^ Deming, Mark. "Allmovie". The Lady killers review. Retrieved August 19, 2007. 
  8. ^ Phares, Heather. "Allmusic". The Lady killers review. Retrieved August 19, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Music from the Motion Picture: The Ladykillers (album liner notes)". Sony (United States). 2004. CK 90896. 
  10. ^ "The Ladykillers". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved November 30, 2009. 

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