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Film / The Ladykillers (2004)

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The Ladykillers (1955) was remade by The Coen Brothers in 2004, changing the base of operations to a house connected to a Mississippi riverboat's vault, and including a significant subplot about the old (now) black lady's ironic support of Bob Jones University. It also increases the violence far beyond what would have been acceptable when the original was made. It shares many tropes with the classic 1955 version. The remake's cast includes Tom Hanks (in a rare villainous role), Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J. K. Simmons, and Ryan Hurst.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Mrs. Wilberforce becomes Mrs. Munson in this version of the story.
  • Anyone Can Die: By the end of the film, the old lady is the last person standing.
  • Black Dude Dies First: They all fall in quick succession, but Gawain is the first to go.
  • Blatant Lies: Professor Dorr's utterly preposterous explanation for the money scattered about the cellar. Despite being perfectly credulous up to that point, Ms. Munson doesn't buy it.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Garth loses his finger while trying to demonstrate the stability of his explosives. "You could light this stuff on fire, hit it with a hamm-" BOOM!
  • Brawn Hilda: Garth's girlfriend, Mountain Girl.
  • Brick Joke: Pickles, Ms. Munson's cat, steals Garth's blown off finger. The film ends with the cat giving the finger back... by spitting it out onto the trash barges.
  • British Teeth: Prof. Dorr is American, but his teeth are pretty askew.
  • The Cameo: Yep, that's Bruce Campbell as the Humane Society rep.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Mrs. Munson tries to return the money, the cops just don't believe her and tell her to keep it. It's heavily implied that they have been led astray before by listening to her.
  • Catchphrase: Garth has "Easiest thing in the world." and "Trial balloon."
  • Chekhov's Gag: The General's cigarette and Garth's IBS.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The film begins with a raven landing on the a statue on the suspension bridge, as well as a garbage boat passing underneath. The barge is used several times, first to dispose of dirt from the tunnelling project, then of the bodies of pretty much everyone who dies by accident or by Karmic Death through the movie. At the end of the film, the raven returns, dislodging the statue's head, which strikes Professor Dorr as he's waxing poetic and kills him, knocking him onto the barge as it passes beneath.
  • The Convenient Store Next Door: The old lady's house.
  • Crime-Concealing Hobby: Professor Dorr renting out an old lady's basement so he and his friends can practice classical music. In fact, they're digging a tunnel to rob a nearby casino vault, playing recorded music to mask the sounds of their work. While Dorr is Wicked Cultured and likely is a musical enthusiast, the rest of the crew... aren't.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The picture of Mr. Munson (though it's more of a humorous changing painting). Its facial expression changes in reaction to the events around it (most obviously with an expression of surprise at an explosion and a satisfied smirk at a Karmic Death).
  • Death by Irony:
    • While Garth's strangling isn't exactly ironic, Mountain Girl doesn't save him because she mistook his groans for his irritable bowel syndrome.
    • The General dies in a rather convoluted chain of events after Ms. Munson's cuckoo clock scares him into swallowing his cigarette, which he always hid in his mouth because of Munson's disapproval.
    • Professor Dorr. After prominently reciting Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven", he dies when a real raven lands on the head of one of the bridge's gargoyle statues - which promptly breaks off and clonks Dorr in the head, knocking him off of the bridge.
  • Disney Villain Death: Dorr is conked on the head by a falling gargoyle head, which sends him over the railing of the bridge, where his coat gets caught on a hook and hangs him. Then his coat rips and he falls onto a garbage barge.
  • Disposing of a Body: The gang decides to get rid of Mrs. Munson's body by dropping it onto a trash barge traveling past a nearby bridge. This becomes a Running Gag as the criminals repeatedly fail to dispose of Mrs. Munson and only succeed to kill each other and themselves in comical ways, each time dropping the latest body off at the bridge.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: While working as the inside man at the casino, Gawain forgets he's supposed to be casing the place and flirts with a very voluptuous woman walking by. It gets him fired and the crew have to scramble to get him his job back.
  • Drawing Straws: The gang do this to determine which of them will do away with Mrs. Munson using broom straws.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Professor Dorr thinks aloud as he tries to come up with an elaborate scheme to deal with a potential obstacle to their heist. Lump tries to interject with an idea, only to be silenced several times by Dorr. When he is finally allowed to speak, he asks "couldn't we just bribe the guy?" It works.
  • Dumb Is Good: Lump is the stupidest of the conspirators, and the only one to develop a conscience when he starts to think for himself. Then again, he's too dumb to even be good at being good.
  • Dumb Jock: Lump Hudson. His Establishing Character Moment is numbly staring at a pitch-perfect interception opportunity and catching it with his face, which is also what ends his football career.
  • Dumb Muscle: Lump Hudson. Him being the "muscle" and too much of a simpleton is the reason why the rest of the group has him.
  • Dwindling Party: The group becomes this while trying to rid of Mrs. Munson.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Despite having drawn the shortest straw and being saddled with the burden of having to murder Mrs. Munson, Gawain just can't bring himself to do the deed because the bossy old lady reminds him of his mother. Though, it's probably not too much out of "love", rather, it's fear.
  • Fallen Hero: Garth was an idealistic Freedom Rider in the 1960s, but now is a Caper Crew demolitions expert, apparently as a result of working a dead-end job.
  • Fingore: Garth blows his finger off in an accidental explosion. The film concludes with a cat spitting the finger in a trash barge in the river below.
  • Foreign Remake: With the setting changed to Mississippi.
  • Gangsta Style: One of the robbers holds his pistol this way against the General in a failed attempted hold up.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: The General to Lump, after Garth's demonstration goes wrong.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: When discussing what to do with Mrs. Munson.
    Professor G.H. Dorr: (to the General) You, sir, are a Buddhist. Is there not a "middle" way?
    The General: Mm. Must float like a leaf on the river of life... and kill old lady.
  • Imaginary Friend: Mrs. Munson invites the Sheriff in to introduce him to her tenant Professor Dorr. Since the Professor is trying to keep his criminal scheme under wraps, he hides from the Sheriff under the bed, which Mrs. Munson finds very amusing. This all conspires to make it seem like the old lady has lost it and is talking to imaginary people from the Sheriff's vantage point.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: At the beginning, when Mrs. Munson is complaining to the police about hip hop music:
    Munson: And, Sheriff, do you know what they call colored folks in them songs? Have you got any idea?
    Sheriff: No, ma'am, I don't think...
    Munson: Niggers! I don't even want to say the word. Now, I won't say it twice, I can tell you that. I say it one time, in the course of swearin' down my complaint. Niggers!
  • Impairment Shot: Several in the POV montage that both introduces Lump and explains why he's so... special.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: When the dimwitted Lump suddenly develops a conscience, he turns the Professor's revolver against him after being ordered to kill Mrs. Munson. The first chamber is empty, but the second isn't, so when it doesn't work, a confused Lump tries to look down the barrel and shoots himself in the face.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Dorr is initially an Affably Evil slightly buffoonish figure who is planning a nonviolent robbery. Then he reluctantly agrees that they need to kill Mrs. Munson due to her demand that they return the money. And in the final act, he becomes disturbingly comfortable with his partners dying off, and become more serious about killing Mrs. Munson.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Gawain's flashback shows that he has at least four younger siblings.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Garth tries to steal the money from his partners largely out of bitterness that none of them besides Lump voted to give him an extra share after he lost a finger handling the explosives.
  • Mugging the Monster: The General's establishing character moment is this (he's the monster).
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Being an incredibly annoying and persnickety landlady? Kill the old woman! Obviously there is also the practical reason of the chances of her becoming a witness, but by the point they propose it she has annoyed every single member of the gang.
    Gawain: You bust a cap in that old bitch's head, everything be simple.
    Professor Dorr: Not easy to do. Many reasons. Practical ones. Quiet neighborhood, sleepy town. Reasons of moral repugnance. A harmless woman, a deed conceived and executed in cold blood. Oh no, Gawain, would that it were simple.
    Gawain: Well, fuck, man! What we gonna do? Give the money back and go to church?
  • No Honor Among Thieves: After Ms. Munson catches the Caper Crew with the stolen money, Professor Dorr lies about turning a new leaf to her and decides that murder is okay. One by one, the party dies either trying to kill Ms. Munson or by accident.
  • Pet the Dog: Gawain once tried to adopt a puppy (even promising to clean up after it) but his mother wouldn't let him keep it.
  • Plethora of Mistakes: The heist itself works perfectly; what happens afterward, on the other hand...
  • Potty Emergency: *grunt* "IBS!" "You be what?"
  • Running Gag: Pickles getting out and climbing up the tree.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Mrs. Munson exemplifies the "Southern, Christian, Colored Old Lady (Who Don't Take No Lip From Anybody)" version of the trope, proving more than enough of a bother for the casino thieves operating under her nose out of her basement. That said, she's clearly a goodhearted, albeit eccentric person.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Professor Dorr has far more words than sense. Not that he's a moron, but he's definitely good at sounding a lot smarter than he really is.
  • Shout-Out: Boccherini's Minuet is played at one point when the gang are having a discussion.
  • A Simple Plan: The more complicated plan (the theft) goes off without a hitch. The simple plan is killing the annoying old woman in the house.
  • Sir Swearsalot: Nearly all of the film's heavy profanity issues forth from Gawain. All cursing noticeably stops after he dies.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The General's fatal Staircase Tumble during a botched attempt on Mrs. Munson's life is underscored by increasingly jaunty Gospel Music.
  • Southern Gentleman: Professor Dorr certainly has the look down pat.
  • Spanner in the Works: The old woman is so annoying that the gang eventually decides to kill her. They all die trying.
  • Staircase Tumble: How the General dies. During his attempt at killing Mrs. Munson, he gets startled by a cuckoo clock and swallows his cigarette, which he was hiding in his mouth, causing him to grab the nearest glass of water to put it out. He then gets startled again when he sees her dentures in the glass while drinking from it, and rushes out of the room; upon doing so, he trips over her cat and falls down the stairs, fatally breaking his neck.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: One of the biggest obstacles in the heist (aside from digging the tunnel) is how to get Gawain's job in the casino back after his firing. While everybody else is discussing complicated ways (lethal and non-lethal) to deal with the supervisor, Lump of all people says that they should try to bribe him. It works.
  • Stupid Crooks: Even the Professor, the criminal mastermind of the crew, is not really all there in terms of intelligence — he's just better at using big words and being intellectually fancy.
  • Tempting Fate: Garth is fond of saying "Easiest thing in the world," shortly before a job he's been given (or taken upon himself) goes badly.
  • Too Dumb to Live: All Dorr has to do is leave one chamber on his revolver empty, counting on poor Lump to look down the barrel and try again when it doesn't fire the first time. Lump doesn't let him down.
  • Tunnel King: The General was a North Vietnamese tunnel rat in The Vietnam War and is the main force behind digging the Caper Crew's tunnel.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Gawain is a boisterous idiot with a stereotypical ghetto speech pattern.
  • Vehicle-Roof Body Disposal: The criminals dispose of the ever-accumulating bodies by dumping them on a landfill barge that passes by the boarding house.
  • Villain in a White Suit: Caper Crew leader Professor Dorr wears a fine white suit in several scenes, adding to his Southern Gentleman appearance.


Video Example(s):


The General's Death

The General dies in a rather convoluted chain of events after Ms. Munson's cuckoo clock scares him into swallowing his cigarette, which he always hid in his mouth because of Munson's disapproval.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathByIrony

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