**/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B-
starring Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, Marlon Wayans, J.K. Simmons
written for the screen and directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
by Walter Chaw There's a great line in the Coen Brothers' The Ladykillers: The General (Tzi Ma), asked for his Buddhist perspective on a caper gone awry, offers, "Be as leaf floating down river. Kill old lady." Still, it's a poor blueprint for a film, as the picture locates its narrative rhythm in a desultory, listless noodle that ends right when it threatens to begin. With Tom Hanks playing the Alec Guinness role of affected cad with larceny--eventually murder--on his mind, The Ladykillers feels like an inside joke. (A slapstick gag featured prominently in the previews, for instance, sees Hanks plucking bills from the air in what has become the defining image of his career, from Forrest Gump's feather inanity to Hanratty's dollar bill futility in Catch Me If You Can.) Returning in a way to more familiar ground after the screwball shrine of Intolerable Cruelty, it's nice to see the Coens, credited as co-directors for the first time in their twenty-year collaboration, tackling another caper noir, but it feels more than a little stale this time around, contrived in the way that genius starts to feel when inspiration flags.