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Thoughts on "Burn After Reading" . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, September 15, 2008

Worth Full-Price, Matinee or Rental: Matinee. Unless you are a Coen Brothers fanatic then the reduced price is the best option for this blackly comedic film.

Will I Own It On DVD: Doubtful. I admire the Coen's work, however, the only movies I own on DVD are "The Big Lebowski," "Raising Arizona," "Fargo," and "No Country For Old Men."

1) "Burn After Reading" is a remarkable departure from their last picture, the meditative "No Country For Old Men," as the Coen brothers move back towards comedy, albeit a dark one where espionage, adultery and murder via tomahawk are all elements which they utilize successfully.

2) That being said, 'Burn' feels like a minor Coen movie. It is not as randomly hilarious as "Raising Arizona" or as classically intricate as "The Big Lebowski," however, it does feature many familiar elements of the Coen brothers. The main problem I had was the weight or lack thereof as the movie broaches some heavy topics fueled with mistaken identities and murder and yet it feels like nothing is ever at stake.

3) But it is an enjoyable film. Much of that fact can be attributed to the cast, which appears to be having an excellent time and that translates well to viewers. Frances McDormand manages to ground the movie and give it a bit of dramatic weight while the supporting cast is also uniformly excellent with John Malkovich as the true stand-out.

4) The star power of George Clooney and Brad Pitt gained 'Burn' early traction, and both actors perform well. Pitt convincingly plays a moronic personal trainer with a skunk-streaked pompadour that almost rivals Javier Bardem's horrendous tonsorial cut in 'No Country.' It's interesting to watch Pitt shed nearly all of his brain cells for the role, and while it's a winning performance, he was a bit too manic and broad in certain scenes.

Clooney succeeds in virtually every scene as a Washington D.C. semi-spook and adulterous lothario with an affinity for wood flooring. Sporting a furry beard, Clooney appears relaxed throughout the film, and he builds a hilarious contraption with materials from the local hardware store which I'll keep a secret as it provides some of the biggest laughs.

5) All in all, "Burn After Reading" is a fine film that will entertain for 95 minutes and then disappear like a popcorn fart. I haven't thought of the movie once until writing this review, which happens quite often, but it also keeps 'Burn' into the middling ranks of Coen brothers movies for me.



  1. Heff Says:
  2. The Trailer made this movie seem like it would be GREAT.

  3. Perfectly said - you forgot about it after you left the theater. I saw THE WOMEN this weekend and I'd have a hard time telling you how it ended.

    This is/was on my list, but I think I'll wait until I'm truly bored/etc.

    As usual, thanks for the timely review. Did you stay dry down there this weekend?

  4. JLee Says:
  5. I will probably see it since I'm a Coen brothers & Clooney fan, but I'm disappointed to hear it didn't quite measure up. I'm sure I will never hear a review that says "disappear like a popcorn fart" ever again. haha

  6. BostonPobble Says:
  7. The trailer for this one did nothing for me but I was still considering going. Thanks for seeing it for me.

  8. Heff - Isn't that what trailers are supposed to do? Ha. I agree as the trailer made it look pretty damn fun.

    Anonymous Boxer - I read a few reviews on the Women that seemd to echo your sentiment. 'Burn' would be a good rainy afternoon movie. And luckily Austin was spared almost completely this weekend (and I feel very lucky indeed as it was a nasty storm).

    Jlee - You should see this one as it's a solid movie and I thought Clooney was excellent. It's fun and if you go in without great expectations then you will definitely enjoy it. I liked the popcorn fart too. Ha.

    Bostonpobble - The cast alone made me want to consider it and then the Coen Brother sold me on the rest. It was a solid movie, but if the trailer didn't appeal then you can probably wait until DVD (if at all).

  9. Wendy Says:
  10. Is something wrong with me? I'm as female as the next middle-aged woman, but George Clooney does nothing for me. Bleah.

  11. I absolutely love your reviews, but I already knew I would only see the movie if I had seen everything else I planned on seeing and it was a spur of the moment decision to go to the movies and that was the only thing left to see that I was remotely interested in. Now I know I can just wait for it to some on cable tv

  12. Linda Says:
  13. The last half hour of this movie was worth the price of admission for me. Agree with you on the performances, especially Pitt and Malcovich. I liked this one.

  14. Wendy - Everyone has their own tastes, but even I like Clooney. Ha. That's mainly because he just seems like he has a good sense of humor and would be fun to have a beer with and shoot the shit. WHo knows?

    TrinabeingTrina - In that case, I would definitely wait for cable. Ha. That being said, it wouldn't be a bad movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch. You could definitely do worse.

    Linda - I enjoyed the ending as well (especially those two CIA guys at the end. ha). It was worth a matinee for me, but I don't know if I ever need to see it again. That could certainly change in the future as it might be worth it to catch the actors one more time.

  15. movie buff Says:
  16. Brad Pitt can be so funny, as long as he's not taking himself too seriously... in any case, it's about time someone made good use of his habitually spastic arm movements


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