Burn After Reading

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: -1/2

Content: -4

John Malkovich, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton. Comedy. Written & directed by Joel & Ethan Coen (Fargo, Barton Fink).

FILM SYNOPSIS: At the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Arlington, VA, analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) arrives for a top-secret meeting. Unfortunately for Cox, the secret is soon out: he is being ousted. Cox does not take the news particularly well and returns to his Georgetown home to work on his memoirs and his drinking, not necessarily in that order. His wife Katie, (Tilda Swinton), is dismayed, though not particularly surprised; she is already well into an illicit affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), a married federal marshal, and sets about making plans to leave Cox for Harry.

Elsewhere in the Washington D.C. suburbs, and seemingly worlds apart, Hardbodies Fitness Centers employee Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) can barely concentrate on her work. She is consumed with her life plan for extensive cosmetic surgery, and confides her mission to can-do colleague Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). Linda is all but oblivious to the fact that the gyms manager, Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins), pines for her even as she arranges dates via the Internet with other men.

When a computer disc containing material for the CIA analysts memoirs accidentally falls into the hands of Linda and Chad, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. As Ted frets, No good can come of this, events spiral out of everyones and anyones control, in a cascading series of darkly hilarious encounters.

PREVIEW REVIEW: This ensemble piece is a dark comedy with touches of numbed satire. But dont switch over to buy your movie ticket just yet. The subject matter concerns a cold-hearted and cynical look at, well, what Im not sure. Im not sure what the moral or the purpose is for this film. I cant quite figure this out, but the writing/directing siblings have managed a story that is both ponderous and, at the same time, flimsy.

One guy is a foul-mouthed CIA agent stripped of his position and not happy about it. Another CIA agent is proud of not ever using his gun, and since this is brought up several times, we know full well hes going to use it in the third act. Then there are the wives cold-blooded and unfeeling. One sells classified CIA info to the Russians in order to get some cosmetic surgery. Another is having an affair on her man, wants a divorce, and is up to stealing all his money to secure her new life. But whats the point? Are the Coens taking a shot at the world of espionage? Or adultery? At some point, the brothers Coen lost sight of the premise, sacrificing story for flamboyant excess.

So, we laugh at the antics and the actors ability to perform with skill and wit, but I felt like I needed a shower after just viewing them. Ultimately, I left feeling grimy and depressed.

One last complaint I mean, besides the crudity the Coen Brothers consider droll. The f-bomb is used by everyone and often (77 times by my count). And one guy uses the name of Jesus Christ blasphemously by injecting the f-word between the two names. Im sorry to even put that in your head. But I need to make this point. We are so used to hearing the f-word and the misuse of Christs name in films that neither seems to warrant much attention from secular critics. Well, by combining the two, it becomes blasphemous. Someday that actor will regret using that profane expression in order to humorize his dialogue. And audience members will someday regret that they laughed at its use and didnt rebuke the filmmakers. Now, my question is this: are you going to attend a movie, even though it contains a name cast, which blasphemes the Son of God? If you do, you may someday regret it.

Please read the content section. Again, I hate putting negative images in your head. But I want you to understand just how desensitized movie-goers would have to be in order to find something redeeming about this production.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Focus Features

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Contains both crude dialogue and visuals.

Obscene Language: Over 70 uses of the f-word and around 30 of the s-word; there are a few minor expletives, but mostly the writers and the actors rely on the f-word to express their characters (and perhaps their own inability) to form creative sentences .

Profanity: In Clooneys first line, he uses the expression GD but then he uses that profanity in all his films, doesnt he? Six or so misuses of Jesus name, including two times when an actor combines Jesus name with an obscenity. The expression oh my God is used more often than by the cast of Friends.

Violence: A man is shot to death, we see the blood-soaked body and splattered walls; another man is wounded by gun fire, but then bludgeoned to death by a hatchet we see blood coming out of his bald head where the small axe went in. Blood: A couple of scenes have much blood from murdered victims.

Sex: Mostly implied; people in the story go to bed after their first date; a graphic depiction of a sex toy.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: One sexual discussion.

Drugs: Some drink, some smoke.

Other: None

Running Time: 120 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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