Burn After Reading Review
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Following up last year’s Oscar-winning drama, No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers return to lighter, zanier fare with their latest quirky comedy, Burn After Reading.

It all starts with former CIA agent Osborne Cox (John Malkovich)—who, after losing his job with the Agency, decides to stay home for a while and write his memoir. This doesn’t exactly appeal to his tough-as-nails wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), who takes it as her cue to file for divorce—so she can finally move on in her relationship with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). Before serving Osborne with the papers, though, she gets a copy of his financial records (along with a few personal records, too).

The files somehow end up at a health club, where they’re opened by ditzy personal trainer Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). Convinced that the files contain important government intelligence of some sort, Chad—along with his friend and co-worker, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand)—decides to hunt down the rightful owner, in hopes of getting a reward for being such a Good Samaritan. But Osborne—who’s dealing with the loss of his job and facing a messy divorce—isn’t exactly in the mood to bargain with a couple of morons. And that’s when things get really messy.

Burn After Reading is a comedy in true Coen Brothers style: it’s wacky and twisted and shocking and completely over-the-top. And, as if that weren’t enough, it’s also got a star-studded ensemble cast. Clooney clearly loves doing comedy—and he’s as goofy and ridiculously overdone as ever (in true Coen comedy fashion) as paranoid ladies’ man Harry. Malkovich also gives a solid (and solidly funny) performance as the unstable, profanity-spewing ex-CIA agent. But Pitt easily steals the show in his hysterical portrayal of Chad, the dim-witted gym employee. Most of the film’s best moments are his—and I started quoting his idiotic lines the minute I stepped out of the theater.

As for the story, this counter-intelligent spy spoof may be silly, but it’s also full of surprises and amusing coincidences. Some of the movie’s best gags are the ones you’ll never see coming. They’ll come zinging at you from far out in left field—and they’ll knock the laughter right out of you before you even know what hit you. And while the movie is often shockingly irreverent (and sometimes even shockingly violent), it’s also shockingly funny.

Though Burn After Reading isn’t the best of the Coens’ comedies—and it probably won’t earn them back-to-back Oscars—it’s a whole lot of zany fun nonetheless. And it’s definitely their best comedy since 2000’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? So if you enjoy the Coens’ unique brand of humor, you can’t go wrong with their latest comic caper.

DVD Review:
Considering the plethora of two- and three-disc DVD releases that I’ve been covering lately, I was shocked to find just one disc inside the Burn After Reading DVD case—because this quirky Coen Brothers comedy actually deserves the two-disc treatment. But, alas, there’s just one disc—with just three short special features.

The DVD’s special features menu includes two different making-of features, the longer of which (DC Insiders Run Amuck) focuses more on the cast and their eccentric characters. The third feature (Welcome Back, George) talks about George Clooney’s work with the Coen Brothers—and how (according to the Coens) he inspires them to write idiot characters. Conspicuously absent from the features are the ever-present commentary…and Brad Pitt, who doesn’t do a single interview on any of the features.

Still, don’t let the DVD’s lack of extras keep you from picking up a copy of this brilliantly cornball comedy. In fact, Pitt’s performance alone makes it worthy of a spot in your collection.

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