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Burn After Reading (2008)

A movie directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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Exterminate all Irrational Goings on.

  • Jul 10, 2009
The Coens seem to be following up their violent crime dramas with lighthearted comedies.  The Big Lebowski begat Fargo and now Burn After Reading begat No Country For Old Men. 

Burn After Reading takes place in DC and has stories centering on divorce, infidelity, giant cups of juice, the CIA, alcoholism, internet dating, Russians, childrens books, plastic surgery, a gym called Hardbodies where hardly anyone with a hard body works there and a mysterious construction project taking place in a philanderers basement.

It sounds like a mishmash but everything wraps up neatly in the end with a stunning bit of realization that could put the idea of a chaos theory to shame by realizing that even if you didn't do anything, great changes can occur.  Kinda like if you ever watched a movie where catastrophic events happen that people are taking care of to save the day and you hope that if it ever happened in reality, you hoped people of that ilk were on the scene.

People always like to say there is no plot to movies and while this one skims by on that line, theres plenty going on where you can't walk away feeling like there was no story at all.  Maybe not a central story but about 3 others with characters that make appearances in each others stories.

All the characters of this world are memorable and share similar traits and co-mingle and interact in surprising ways and by the end you can write up a nice paragraph about what each one does and what they say to impact the plot line.  John Malkovitch as a CIA analyst whose life keeps digging him a hole to George Clooney's Treasury Agent with ever growing appetite to divide and conquer anything with a pulse and both are married to career women with rotten personalities.  Francis McDormand and Brad Pitt are gym employees who are both quirky and stupid without being completely nauseating or eccentric for the sake of being so.  The government agents are buttoned down and colorless save one who appears twice to great effect and would rather ordinary people die or go away to make a job easier.

Even if you see the movie and didn't care for the movie, seeing John Malkovitch lying prostrated on a couch in his bathrobe staring blankly at a ceiling is reason enough to see it.
John Malkovitch as Ozborne Cox George Clooney as Harry Pfarrer, twitchy womanizer Brad Pitt attempting blackmail A body.... JK Simmons as CIA Head, don't pester him too much John Malkovitch on a tear

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July 10, 2009
Nice Review John!  This movie was actually a lot of fun!  The Coen Brothers are a very hit or miss subject for me and this was one of their hits.  I couldn't stand for the life of me though, No Country For Old Men.  I thought it was one of the most boring, useless films ever made.  What did you think?
July 10, 2009
Personally, I LOVE No Country, saw it before all the hype hit and loved it. I'm a huge Coen brothers fan and really need to see some of their other movies again.
More Burn After Reading (2008 movie... reviews
review by . April 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
After a mid-career dip, the CB are back! Burn represents the second consecutive strong showing, coming on the heals of their best ever No Country for Old Men. Burn isn't their best ever, but it is a return to their roots, and to what made them good.    The BL (Before Lebowski) movies were a tour of the classic genres of the Great Age of cinema, centered around the theme of identity:    Blood Simple was a great noir debut about misunderstanding identity.  Raising …
review by . June 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
They say good things come in twos, and I can’t think of a more fitting justification for this platitude than the varied body of work that is the Coen brothers’ film repertoire. Time and time again, the duo has tickled our funny bones while offering that something extra for the finicky tastes of moviegoers whose palates desire a little “oomph”.      That being said,      I hated Burn After Reading.      I mean, I …
review by . July 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A throw-away effort by the Coen Brothers, but Tilda Swinton takes the prize for unlikable funniness
If you enjoy sour shaggy dog stories told for the enjoyment of clever, sour people, you might like Burn After Reading...a shaggy dog story if there ever was one. It takes the easy target of Washington's shallow denizens and mixes them into the equally easy targets of CIA paranoia and serial infidelities. And all these denizens, with one possible exception, are either numbskull boobs or nasty boobs.       The Coens have given us not only a sour shaggy dog story, designed …
review by . August 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I would call myself a fan of the Coen Brothers. A pretty big fan actually. Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? are among my favourite films of all time, and I'm a huge admirer of their darker offerings like Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, No Country For Old Men and Blood Simple. Therefore, I sat down to watch Burn After Reading with great expectations. Those expectations even seemed justified by the clips I'd seen and the things I'd read about …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Coen Brother's zany comic follow up to No Country For Old Men has wacky goins on in DC with an alcohalic and his frosty wife, a philanthripist and his ornery wife and two dim gym employees getting mixed up over a lame MacGuffin. Maybe not a classic, but worth watching once.
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Coen Bros lately give us characters to care about briefly. Then they die. This is wearing thin. Their satirical schtick feels increasingly bitter rather than entertaining, and this film shows their smug insularity. A few moments such as the deadpan CIA suits as they converse hit their mark, but the actors seem as worn out as their convoluted storylines now.
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Intriguing and amusing at times, but overall, I could barely keep myself focused on the screen.
Quick Tip by . August 03, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A little disappointed with this one, great cast but expected a little more.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Very Underrated. One of the funniest movies I have seen lately
Quick Tip by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Coen brothers are the master of surprises, and Burn After Reading definitely had some surprises I hadn't expected. An amazing cast for great film
About the reviewer
John Nelson ()
Ranked #8
Born in Wausau Wisconsin. Move at an early age to Ventura California and lived for 8 years. Growing up in a big city landscape didn't prepare me for my next move: Archbold Ohio with a population of … more
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About this movie


With their overtly comedic follow-up BURN AFTER READING, the Coen Brothers return--about a third of the way--from the dark, dank recesses of the human psyche they traversed in their Oscar-winning NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. For those unfamiliar with the landscape of modern movie psychoanalysis, this puts the fraternal filmmakers square in the cruel, misanthropic, and farcical realm of their 1990s-era body of work, somewhere between the tragicomic crime thriller of FARGO and the disconnected noir-homage anti-storytelling of THE BIG LEBOWSKI, with 2007's NO COUNTRY retroactively adding new nihilism-tinged dimensions of smart skepticism to the proceedings. In a more linear trajectory, BURN AFTER READING also stands as the third entry, after BLOOD SIMPLE and FARGO, in what could be an unofficial Tragedy of Human Idiocy trilogy, wherein characters make the most outlandishly moronic moves to devastating consequences simply by adhering to true human behavior. Indeed, Carter Burwell's emotionally weighty score, whic...

After the dark brilliance ofNo Country for Old Men,Burn After Readingmay seem like a trifle, but few filmmakers elevate the trivial to art quite like Joel and Ethan Coen. Inspired by Stansfield Turner'sBurn Before Reading, the comically convoluted plot clicks into gear when the CIA gives analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) the boot. Little does Cox know his wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton, riffing on herMichael Claytoncharacter), is seeing married federal marshal ...
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: September 12, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
DVD Release Date: December 21, 2008
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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"Pretty Great"
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