'Burn After Reading' is stupid, violent and loads of fun

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By Scotty McDaniel

Very rarely do I see a film in which they show every detail of somebody getting shot in the head at point-blank range. It's even more rare for me to see this and laugh out loud.

But that was the response from the audience watching Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers' latest release.

It's over-the-top in both humor and in violence, leading the audience from giggles to gasps and back in the blink of an eye.

The Coen brothers have shown that they can do dead serious films, such as the 2007 Oscar winner, No Country for Old Men, or hysterical films, such as The Big Lebowski. But Burn After Reading takes some dead-serious issues and makes them hysterical.

The cast is loaded, featuring George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt, to name a few.

They're all connected, usually unknowingly, through adultery, blackmail, murder and other sinful acts.

It's seeing these flawed characters tied together and so clueless that makes it all so funny.

Clooney plays Harry Pfarrer, a federal marshal who is basically a sex addict. He's having an affair with Swinton's cold vicious character, Katie Cox, who happens to be the wife of Malkovich's character, Osborne Cox.

To sum up Osborne's dialogue in the film, from here on, let's refer to him as F-Bomb Cox.

F-Bomb Cox has some anger issues, and perhaps rightfully so. The movie opens with his getting summoned to his boss's office in the CIA Headquarters, where he is told he is being let go.

They try to tell him that they found a job for him in the low-clearance State Department, but F-Bomb Cox is insulted. When somebody mentions that he has a drinking problem, he flips out, and after a hilariously improper speech he storms out - jobless and vowing to write a memoir of his CIA experiences.

Minutes into the film, F-Bomb Cox is jobless and unaware that his wife is cheating on him with Pfarrer.

When Pfarrer isn't with Katie, he spends most of his time going for runs or hooking up with random women from dating Web sites.

One of those women is dimwitted Linda Litzke, played by McDormand. Litzke is at a point in her life where all she wants is to undergo surgeries to make herself more attractive, so she can find a man.

She spends time searching dating Web sites and is thrilled to find the ruggedly handsome Pfarrer.

She's a spaz who can't focus on much else in her life until Pitt's character, Chad Feldheimer, shows her a CD that somebody left in the locker room at the fitness facility where they both work. On the CD is F-Bomb Cox's memoir.

In an already funny cast of characters, Pitt's performance as fitness trainer Feldheimer stands out for his ditziness and dance moves.

He's convinced that if he finds F-Bomb Cox and tells him he found his sensitive government files, a finder's reward would be issued. His buddy Litzke jumps on board with the plan when she realizes that a reward could go toward her enhancement surgeries.

Before long everyone is unknowingly connected in a comedy of blackmail, sex, lies and murder.

It's stupid, but it's fun. There's not much substance to it. You're not going to leave the theater and think about the film for the next week.

But for the 96 minutes you're in front of that big screen, you'll be having a sinfully good time.


4 out of 5 stars

Title: Burn After Reading

Directed by: Ethan and Joel Coen

Starring: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt