One of the best-loved films from the idiosyncratic British film studio Ealing Pictures gets an update from the equally idiosyncratic filmmaking team of Joel and Ethan Coen in this offbeat comedy. Marva Munson (Irma P. Hall) is a spry, elderly woman who attends church regularly, doesn't care for loud noises or harsh language, and is looking for a tenant for the spare room in her house. Enter Goldthwait Higginson Dorr (Tom Hanks), a silver-tongued college professor who moves in and gains Munson's permission to use the basement for rehearsals with his "medieval music ensemble." What Munson doesn't know is that Dorr's latest project is not academic, but criminal. Dorr is masterminding the robbery of a riverboat casino, and the fellow musicians in his ensemble are actually the crew he's assembled to pull off the job: foul-mouthed "inside man" Gawain (Marlon Wayans), clumsy demolitions expert Pancake (J.K. Simmons), quiet strong-arm man Lump (Ryan Hurst), and logistical expert The General (Tzi Ma). Despite the best efforts of Dorr and his cohorts (which aren't very impressive), Munson finds out about their scheme, and when she refuses to accept a share of the take in exchange for her silence, Dorr decides the best solution is to silence her permanently. The gospel tunes which grace the soundtrack to The Ladykillers were coordinated by T-Bone Burnett, who also helped assemble the acclaimed song score for the Coen brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
by Mark Deming synopsis