DVD Review: Burn After Reading

Somebody please explain the purpose of this film! Joel and Ethan Coen are back to lesser form with Burn After Reading, a half-baked and utterly pointless flick involving a series of absurd events that lead to a head-scratching conclusion.

When an important disc supposedly containing top secret CIA documents falls into the hands of two unlikely gym trainers, things take a turn for the worst. Everyone involved becomes sucked into a whirlwind of crazy happenings, mixed-up identities, and some are put to rest for good.

The all-star cast includes a paranoid George Clooney, a dimwitted Frances McDormand, an uptight John Malkovich, and a sober Tilda Swinton. But it’s a flamboyant, thickheaded, and eccentric Brad Pitt who dances away with the show with his appearance that’s sadly cut short. He proves he has what it takes to be the next comedic star in future Coen Brothers comedies.

This is a film that will indeed gain cult status like many other Joel and Ethan Coen features. Previously, the Coens have made a number of films that don’t really account for any true meaning at all such as The Big Lebowski and Barton Fink. Some work and some don’t. Unfortunately Burn After Reading falls in the latter category by being quickly forgettable, moderately funny (thank you, Brad Pitt, for generating the film’s only laughs), mildly confusing, and consistently foolish throughout.

I warn you if you’re not a fan of the Coen Brothers’ films you will be left with an empty feeling. This is nothing groundbreaking, nor anything to go out of your way to rent. It just may be one of the more overpraised films of the year. I doubt they’ll ever top Fargo.

With a total of one shocking moment in the film (I’ll spare you the spoiler), it fails to maintain a steady level of interest and thrills to keep viewers thoroughly engaged. It is very similar to previous films made by these Academy Award-winning directors. The hackneyed script and unexplained subplots make it difficult to enjoy and know exactly what’s going on. So if you happen to follow their work and enjoy most of their pointless projects, Burn After Reading just might suit your needs. Otherwise, just don’t bother with this sloppy and incoherent film, a less serious and more upbeat flick than last year’s Best Picture, No Country For Old Men.

Special features include “Finding The Burn”, a short “making of” featurette that lacks a detailed description of the movie itself, “DC Insiders Run Amuck” which breaks down every character in the film with intricate precision, and “Welcome Back, George” which is a three minute tribute to George Clooney by directors Joel and Ethan Coen. Burn After Reading is available on DVD and Blu-Ray Hi-Def December 21 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. 2/5 stars

1 thought on “DVD Review: Burn After Reading”

  1. Well, I suppose I can see why you wouldn’t like it. I loved it though, I was laughing at almost everything (including the Brad Pitt parts). You seem to have seen other Coen movies so I’m surprised you didn’t pick up on all of the subtle humor that was in there.

    “…with his appearance that’s sadly cut short.” I’d probably avoid that because it kind of indirectly gives his fate away.

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