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Burn After Reading
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Reviewed on 2008-09-17
Received[2]  out of 4 stars
GenreComedy / Crime
Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men” and “Fargo”) have the clout in Hollywood to make any film they want. Rather than giving the green light to this project, whoever perused the screenplay should have followed the advice contained in the title.

This diverting fluff piece shows the idiocy that prevails in today’s society. The movie opens and closes with an omnipotent being looking down on how stupid and foolish the human race that he created on Earth has become.

A bunch of A-list stars appear to be having a good time playing quirky cartoonish characters with loose morals and simple-minded agendas. A bald John Malkovich plays Osborne Cox, an arrogant CIA analyst with a drinking problem. Rather than being demoted to a lower-level job, he quits. He dictates his memoir of his CIA career which ends up on a computer disk.

His anal-retentive, control-freak wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), is having an affair with federal marshal Harry (George Clooney) and wants a divorce. She goes to a divorce attorney whose secretary works out at Hardbodies Fitness Center. The disk with supposedly top secret information slips out of her gym bag and is found by a janitor on the floor of the women’s locker room.

It ends up in the hands of two gym employees (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt). McDormand plays Linda, an aging fitness instructor who wants to reinvent herself through extensive plastic surgery. Since her insurance will not pay for this elective surgery, she comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme to blackmail Malkovich. Her naïve, lame–brained colleague Chad (Pitt) willingly goes along like a pet puppy dog.

Ted (Richard Jenkins from “The Visitor”), the boss at the workout facility, has a schoolboy’s crush on Linda and likes the way she looks. J.K. Simmons, who appears late in the movie as a CIA chief intelligence officer, delivers the best line that sums up the movie: “Keep an eye on everyone and see what they do. Report back to me when it makes sense.”

The cliché-ridden dialogue has a steady stream of profanity. This goofy espionage comedy of errors has Clooney and McDormand ending up in the sack together after sleeping around with others from online dating matchups.

Everyone seems to be going through a mid-life crisis with a grass-is-greener philosophy. The dark comedy turns gruesome and bloody because the Coen boys have itchy trigger fingers. A few key players end up as corpses.

The one saving grace is a hilarious performance by Pitt. He plays a total nut job whose physical mannerisms while working out bring the most chuckles.

The movie’s strongest asset is a mercifully short running time of 95 minutes. If you want to laugh at knuckleheads, the better alternative is the Three Stooges or Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Review By:
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"


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