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Burn After Reading (2008)
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Review Date: November 17, 2008
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Writer: Joel & Ethan Coen
Producers: Joel & Ethan Coen, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Actors:
George Clooney as Harry
Frances McDormand as Linda
Brad Pitt as Chad
Plot:
A bumbling exercise trainer finds a CD with high-level security shit on it and, along with his co-worker (who also happens to be dim and needs to score some money for her plastic surgeries), attempts to blackmail the governmental man to whom it belongs. Toss in some George Clooney as a philanderer, and plenty of hilarious dialogue via the Coen brothers, and you’ve got yourself a movie, folks.
Critique:
I liked this film overall, but unfortunately its blunt ending left something to be desired in my mouth (not unlike the Coen bros’ last film, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN). That said, the movie is definitely still worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of films that squeeze a number of eclectic characters into their mix, shake them all about and create some kind of bizarre meandering storyline that isn’t so much about the plot or its depth, but rather, its dialogue, its quirkiness and its peppy fun pace. I’m not sure I would have liked this film as much had it not been jampacked with so many engaging actors though, including the always entertaining George Clooney, who plays his character with a tongue so far up his cheek, he might’ve drilled a hole right through it. His co-star from MICHAEL CLAYTON, Tilda Swinton, also scores big as the cold-hearted cerebral woman with whom he’s fornicating, while both Brad Pitt and director Joel Coen’s wife, Frances McDormand, have a lot of fun playing two morons who believe they’re smarter than they really are, while falling into a conspiracy that they themselves might’ve started (yeah, just go with it). The film also jazzes those main characters up with a number of fun character actors, including the great Richard Jenkins, “Sledge Hammer” himself David Rasche and the always huffy J.K Simmons.

But my favorite of the bunch had to be John Malkovich, playing an extremely high-strung ex-CIA guy who loves to drink almost as much as he loves to swear (“Who the fuck do you work for, you fucker?”). I had a blast in almost every scene featuring Malkovich, whose mounting anger grew right alongside the number of “bozos” around him. But much like the fate of one of the lead characters wasn’t shown at the end of NO COUNTRY, the same happens in this movie as a couple of characters simply describe the conclusion to the film. Not cool. Why the fuck am I paying to see a fuckin’ movie if people in the film are just gonna describe the fates of some of the characters to me?! I’m paying to *see* the movie…it’s a visual fuckin’ medium! Whoa, sorry about that…I think Malkovich’s character got the better of me there. Overall, the film is an easy quick 90-minute diversion for anyone who’s a fan of the actors, the Coen brothers or this type of quirky fare. That said, its first 60 minutes are its strongest and funniest, whilst its final act veers off the humor somewhat, and doesn’t really finish with a solid wallop. “You're a Mormon. Compared to you we all have a drinking problem.” All in all though, fun times. I look forward to revisiting it again in the future, like most Coen bros movies.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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