Burn After Reading Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 21, 2008
When it comes to Burn After Reading, it seems the Coens are just pulling things out of thin air. Guess what? It works just fine.

Reading the plot-line is one thing, but watching 90 minutes of a lost disk is something else. There is so much intertwining going on, it is surprising how this film never gets as confusing as it sounds. Head-scratching perhaps, but not confusing.

The banter from the characters is highly entertaining. In fact, this is one of the areas where this picture excels. The constant barrage of the F word is worth the price of admission.

There are a number of noticeable faces. John Malkovich and Brad Pitt get a lot of points for their characters. J.K. Simmons makes the most of his minutes as well.

Burn After Reading is an example of a recommendable comedic drama. "Report back to me when it makes sense."
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2009
An entertaining, though flawed comedy concerning top-secret information that is leaked out accidentally to a couple of pinhead gym managers (Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt), and how the government analyst (John Malkovich) responsible proceeds to track them down. Though not the Coen Bros. finest hour, this is still a wickedly funny satire somewhat in the vein of 'Dr. Strangelove'. The characters aren't fleshed out as well as they could be, but the performances from the terrific cast make up for it considerably. And, as always, they get the point of their film across in their final shot, which serves as an important reminder that governments probably never learn from their mistakes the first time around, and are bound to repeat it sometime in the future again. Brad Pitt steals the show from a comedy standpoint, while McDormand is equally terrific as the film's most interesting and likable character. Recommended if you like the Coen Bros. brand of humor.
Super Reviewer
March 24, 2012
Burn After Reading proves that "No Country" was not just a fluke masterpiece and that the Coens have returned to the top of their game after a couple misfires in a row (Intolerable Cruelty & The Ladykillers). Features a wickedly hilarious script and amazing performances from the entire cast.
Super Reviewer
December 30, 2010
I love the Coen Brothers. This movie was outlandishly and wildly funny. It isn't the type of humor Hollywood is used to... it's a humor that plays throughout the entire movie. Note that this movie is definitely not for everyone for there are many that did not agree that this movie was funny, but for me, it was hilarious. You cannot doubt this cast either. George Clooney, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand and one cannot deny the incredible talent from the Coen Brothers. They directed this movie to a perfection. If I could try and find the type of humor that "Burn After Reading" is going for is the TV show "King of the Hill". Now I don't find this TV show hilariously funny, the humor plays out throughout the entire plotline, not from punch lines (though there are some punch lines). Note that this movie has some pretty dark humor. Other than that, relax and have a good time with this flick :)
Super Reviewer
August 24, 2011
This movie confused the hell out of me and left me wondering why it was sold as a black comedy. Brad Pitt's performance is its one saving grace and Frances McDormand as always is brilliant. Surprising and attentive, I cannot say I did not enjoy it the first time but I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth and wondering where the laughs were to be found. Definitely a one hit wonder that I won't be watching again.
Super Reviewer
July 10, 2011
Rather enjoyable, strange film. A good one nonetheless, but not the best from the Coen brothers
Super Reviewer
December 15, 2007
Intelligence is relative.

Saw it one more time, Great movie! An Intelligent. Quirky, Surreal Delight. The Coen Brother's did it again with great Direction. This was a very wicked movie with great talented actors. The plot is just so very good and very funny. Brad Pitt made me laugh so much and all the characters are so very interesting. Love it!

Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst who is fired from his job at the agency ostensibly because of his drinking problem. He tells his wife he quit and wants to write a memoir about his life in the CIA. His wife, Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), wants to divorce Osbourne and, at the counsel of her divorce lawyer, she copies many of his personal and financial files off his computer and onto a CD. Katie happens to be having an affair with US Marshall/Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). The CD is found at Hardbodies, a workout gym. An employee of the gym, Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) obtains the disc from the gym's custodian and believes that it contains classified government information. Along with his fellow employee Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), they intend to use the disk to blackmail Osbourne - Linda needs the money to pay for cosmetic surgery. They call up Cox in the middle of the night, but he is not receptive. Frustrated in Cox' manner, Linda decides to take the information to the Russian embassy. At the embassy, she hands the disk over to the Russians, promising that she will give more information afterwards. Because Linda and Chad don't have any more information, they decide to break into Cox's house.

Harry Pfarrer, while married to a children's book writer, is a playboy dating many women from the Internet. By chance he hooks up with Linda, also an Internet dater, and they begin seeing each other. Harry is proud to show off a homemade device he saw pictured in a "gentleman's magazine". Harry has also noticed someone seems to be following him as there is always a dark car close by.

Meanwhile, Osbourne returns to his home only to find himself locked out because Katie changed the locks and transferred all the bank accounts in a final move in her secret divorce proceedings. He sleeps overnight in his sailboat.

Chad stakes out the Cox's house and breaks in after Harry and Katie leave after a daytime tryst. Harry, returns after a jog, accidentally finds Chad in a closet, and suddenly shoots him in the face. Harry, thinking that Chad was a spy, disposes of the body. Days later, his paranoia increasing after murdering Chad, Harry leaves the Cox residence after a fight with Katie. On his way he manages to tackle the man who has been trailing him for some time. Harry finds out that the man is working for a law firm hired by his wife who, it is later revealed, also has been cheating on him.

The next morning, Harry and Linda meet in a park. Linda mentions her friend Chad has been missing. When Harry realizes that Chad was the guy he shot at the Cox's, he becomes paranoid and flees in terror.

LInda's manager at Hardbodies, Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins), is sympathetic and agrees to help her get more info from the Cox house for the Russians.

Osbourne, angry and drunk, breaks into his own house with a hatchet. There he finds Ted rifling through his computer. Osbourne shoots and wounds Ted, who stumbles out of the house. Osbourne grabs the hatchet and attacks Ted in broad daylight.

At CIA headquarters, Osbournes former manager (David Rasche) and his Director (J.K. Simmons) try to sort out what happened: Chad is dead, Ted is dead, Osbourne is in a vegetative state and dying after being shot by an agent while attacking Ted, Harry has been arrested trying to board a flight to Venezuela (but the CIA Director suggests letting him go), and Linda has agreed to cooperate in exchange for the CIA financing her plastic surgery. The baffled CIA agents then decide that they have learned their lesson: to never repeat whatever it is that they did in this case; though they are still not clear what it is they did.
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2008
With a brilliant cast and directors I expected this to be hilariously funny. It was slightly funny, especially the parts with Brad Pitt, especially the car scene where he first meets Cox. However I felt it was lacking something. It was good and interesting but left me with a feeling of WTF.
Super Reviewer
½ April 26, 2011
Convoluted labyrinthine plots, sharp dialogue, eccentric characters and an exceptional ensemble of actors are what the Coen brothers are known for, and with this espionage comedy/thriller, they tick all these boxes once again.
In Washington, D.C., the lives of several oddball characters cross paths when CIA analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) quits over a drinking issue and his memoirs unexpectedly falls in to the hands of dumb health club employees Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), who decide to try a bit of blackmail to make a coin for themselves. Meanwhile, Cox's wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is sleeping with horny treasury marshal Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) who has a secret or two of his own.
What more can you ask for, when the Coens amass a very impressive line-up of top notch actors and mix them up in a bit of espionage, extortion, illicit affairs, online dating and sex toys. They spoil us once again with their ear for side-splitting dialogue and wonderful actors to deliver it, not to mention the often zany, screwball antics of the well drawn characters. There were moments of pants-wetting hilarity in this, to rival some of the best of the Coens' work. The performances are so good from the entire cast that peoples opinions differ greatly as to who was their favourite.
Malkovich is at his maniacal best; Swinton once again nails the cold-hearted bitch routine; McDormand is perfectly goofy and endearing; Pitt is hilarious as a naive camp dope and Clooney once again shows his range with exaggerated expressive features of vulnerability and paranoia. It's hard to pick a favourite but if I had to choose, it'd be the unsung and highly underrated Richard Jenkins. His performance is beautifully nuanced. His character is all about hiding his emotions and Jenkins' subtle expressions are heartbreaking yet hilarious. He's an actor that can do drama and comedy effortlessly and this is another of his consistently excellent deliveries.
The only slight problem I had with the film, was the coherence. I loved every individual scene bit it somehow felt a little disjointed. However, this is a very small gripe from a highly entertaining experience.
The Coens strike comedy gold again, and after the the near mishap of "The Ladykillers" it's good to know that they've still got their funny bone intact. Another strong argument for inventing an Oscar award for best ensemble.
Super Reviewer
½ February 1, 2010
Hmm a black comedy that wasn't that funny. A great cast line up but the story wanders a fair bit and doesn't really go anywhere. At the end I thought oh is that it? Could have been a lot better I thought, just a bit weird overall!
Super Reviewer
½ April 10, 2011
Burn After Reading became more and more interesting as it went along. The acting is hilarious, the face expressions on thesexguys were classic. The plot was the strong point, being a story line from beginning to end. The comedy, is it hilarious, no, but is it funny, yes. Thats the point of a dark comedy, they're not supposed to be hilarious. This movie was great, and I think its a underrated comedy from the Coens like Intolerable Cruelty.
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2011
Maybe Fargo is better, but Burn After Reading has it's moments of Coen Glory. Sometimes shocking, sometimes brilliant, sometimes hilarious, the three never seem to come together as perfectly as you'd like. But if you can find a Brad Pitt character that's more funny than Chad, I'll be damned. The violence is some of the most believable and realistic I've ever seen in a movie, surprisingly. The dialogue in the last scene is masterful, I just wish the rest of the movie were too.
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2011
A loopy, ridiculously funny and utterly worthless comedy from the Coen brothers. It delivers stand-out performances from the cast and winning directorial style from the always-great two-headed director.
Super Reviewer
½ March 19, 2011
Extremely slight entertainment from The Coen Brothers. "Burn After Reading" is mildly amusing due to it's ensemble cast and spoofing of CIA films. George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Brad Pitt are all very funny in their goofy roles and it's actually worth sitting through the film just for them. Where the film fails is that it never wants to say anything other than people are dumb and they take things way to seriously. Thanks guys, we get it. "Burn After Reading" is extremely insignificant in the grand scheme of all things Coen Brothers.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2011
This film has a great cast and some very funny scenes, but unfortunately the film falls short with its broken and dissatisfying plot line.
Super Reviewer
September 14, 2008
Funny and original movie. John Malkovich quits as a CIA agent and decides to write his memoirs. His wife (Tilda) is having an affair with a married man (George). Before she decides to divorce him she gathers information from his computer. A copy of his memoirs is found by two dim witted gym employees (Brad and Frances) who decide to blackmail John to benefit from their find. However, it all goes horribly wrong. A lot of unfortunate incidents make up the rest of the movie, make sure you follow closely. My favourite is the last scene with the FBI. Great cast.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2010
So recently i saw true grit(coen brothers version) and it was fantastic so now ive been watching their films. This has to be one of the strangest and funniest movies they have made. John Malkovich is priceless with his relentless profanity while Brad Pitt prances around like a complete fool. The story was cleaver in the way that everything fell apart but had a comedic side to it. I understand why some people saw this as a waste of a good cast but for me, but for me this movie was just so funny.
Super Reviewer
½ March 12, 2008
After the dead serious "No Country for Old Men" the Coen brothers return to lighter material, without entirely giving up their love for grotesque humor and sudden violence, think "Fargo". The soundtrack also remains serious, hinting at a political thriller. But in the end it's a bizarre comedy. Their biggest assets in this film are a script that starts out slow but soon becomes entirely unpredictable and more exciting every minute and a great cast of big names delivering wonderful performances for their ridiculously stupid and obnoxious characters. The end sums it up so well, all is said and done, yet nothing solved, some but not everyone got what they deserved and a few didn't even make it there. To watch the path leading there is a lot of fun, though, as pointless as it feels afterwards.
Super Reviewer
½ June 12, 2008
Yech!! So unfunny.. So migrane triggering... Tschhh... I dont really have the patience or tolerance for these kinds of characters. Garbage.
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