Review of 'Burn After Reading'

burn_after_reading.jpg Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst who is fired due to his alcoholism. His cheating wife Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton) wants a divorce so copies personal files off of his computer and puts them onto a CD including the notes for his memoirs. When the CD falls into the hands of two staff from the “Hardbodies” gym, Chad Feldheimer (a dim-whited Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), they realize it can be used to blackmail Osborne in order to pay for the plastic surgery Linda wants. They soon realize this is easier said than done with Osborne refusing to play ball. Approaching the Russians they up the stakes…

A quirky film, as one might expect with the Coen brothers which is a comedy of inept and silly behaviour (again). Brad Pitt plays largely against type as Chad is the simplest of the lot with his focus on fitness with no brain cells left for anything else, playing the role with obviously delighted glee. Frances McDormand as the rather single-minded Linda is not much better as she overlooks the chaos enfolding around her to achieve her rather misguided attempt to receive plastic surgery. Malkovich really shines as the annoyed operative struggling to maintain his composure while his world falls apart due to extreme incompetence of those around him.

As with such films expect frequent, sudden, and bloody violence, along with loads of swearing. This is not a film for those with a sensitive stomach or disposition. I had a hard time getting over the shock of this to enjoy the humorous, though generally not “laugh out loud” comedy, losing my patience pretty much half way through the film though sticking around to see how it all turns out. It does look good with some innovative camera angles and movements that keep the film moving along at a fairly brisk pace despite the story faltering somewhat in the middle section - The emphasis here is very much on the unusual, if not at all likeable, characters (indeed, I am not sure any of those featured in the film I actually “liked”).

A typical Coen film focused around a single gag stretched into 90+ minutes of run time…but it is still amusing.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-12-31

Directed by: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Studio: Focus Features

Year: 2008

Length: 96 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen:

Other reviewed films by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen: