Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Burn After Reading

Another Friday, another movie. This time I went to see "Burn After Reading" the latest film from the Coen brothers, the geniuses behind "Fargo," "O Brother Where Art Thou," and "No Country for Old Men" among many others. This particular film answers the question: what happens in a battle of wits between the witless?

"Come back when it makes sense," is what the CIA Chief (JK Simmons, who seems to be getting typecast in these sort of roles after "Spider-Man") says to a lower CIA officer midway through the meeting. But the only problem is the plot of this movie will NEVER make sense. "Burn After Reading" is simply preposterous and yet it's fun to watch these bumbling idiots doing battle.

The film starts with Osbourne Cox getting fired from his gig as a CIA analyst. He's married to Katie, the pediatrician from Hell who wants to get a divorce. She's sleeping with Harry, a former Treasury agent who likes to brag about the gun he still carries and has never fired. Harry is building something in his basement. When revealed, this device got the biggest laughs of the whole movie. Meanwhile, Linda is a gym instructor who desperately wants plastic surgery to remake her body. She goes on dates with men she meets online who are invariably married and using her for a quick roll in the hay.

Katie's lawyer convinces her to steal Osbourne's computer files to use against him in divorce proceedings. These include his memoirs about his years in the Agency. Somehow these end up being left at the gym, where Linda's dimwitted co-worker Chad convinces her to try blackmailing Osbourne for money. From there the inexplicable action begins. From the previews you probably already know that at one point Linda and Chad try to sell Osbourne's memoirs to the Russian government.

Saying much more about what happens would spoil too much, and it wouldn't make any sense anyway. These characters are all far less important or bright than they think, as epitomized by Harry and his gun and the Russian government's reaction to Osbourne's memoirs. As I said earlier, watching these idiots match wits--or lack thereof--is what makes the film fun to watch. This is territory the Coens mined more successfully in "Fargo" and less successfully in the dreadful remake of "The Ladykillers." (And they've probably done it in other movies I haven't seen.)

What disappointed me was the ending, where the fates of most of the characters is TOLD rather than SHOWN. Most of those scenes would have been pretty funny, but we don't get to see it. You're left wondering if they just ran out of film or money. Maybe there will be an alternate ending on DVD. Watching this on DVD I might be able to figure out how the CD with Osbourne's data got into the gym. From what I could gather, Katie's lawyer's secretary took it there and lost it, but I'm not entirely certain. Maybe I missed something or maybe it was another thing not shown.

The only other thing that bothered me about this movie is that the characters, especially Osbourne, seemed like they were trying to go for a record in using the "F" word. A lot of the time it just sounded pretty juvenile. Between that and a bloody sequence later in the movie you don't want to take your kids to this one.

Anyway, I found the movie engrossing if only to wonder what ridiculous things would happen next. I'd recommend seeing it, though you could easily wait until it comes out on DVD.

(My Rating: 2.5/4 stars)
(Metacritic score: 62)

That is all.

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