In-between outdoor activities in our neighborhood, we decided to
check out the new Coen Brothers flick "Burn After Reading." My
fiancée Meg noted--ominously, in fact--that this movie had been
getting "mixed" reviews (she knows I don't read them), so we went
into this movie hoping for the best.
Let's just say that no one will be placing this flick atop the Coen
Brothers' canon of films, if they know anything about movies.
I'm still stuck trying to figure out why "Burn After Reading" is so
uneven and eventually worthless; the film is described by the
directors themselves as a "Washington, D.C. spy caper" (we watched
the HBO "making of" special yesterday) and I agree, in that the film
IS based in Washington, D.C. John Malkovich plays a long-time
CIA analyst who is fired when the film opens; in deciding what to do
with his life, he decides--against the advice of his cheating wife
Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton)--to write a memoir of his government
adventures. This memoir is what drives the rest of the film,
as notes of the memoir somehow fall into the hands of a
knuckleheaded fitness club employee (Brad Pitt) and his co-worker
Linda (Frances McDormand, the wife of Joel Coen), who demand a
ransom from the CIA guy in exchange for the return of these notes.
Add Katie's lover Harry (George Clooney) to the mix and you've got
plenty of people to keep up with...
...but, these characters are only one-note quirky, so the lack of
depth of all of these characters makes them hard to get into, even
if they are occasionally amusing in their pursuit of whatever each
person is after. "Burn After Reading" made me laugh a couple
of times, and chuckle many other times...and, as Meg mentioned
later, I was one of the few people doing any laughing. I think
one of the major pluses of this film, for me at least, was that the
film is set here in Washington, so while I can't confirm that the
film was shot here, the lingo and some of the passing shots of the
city made me all warm inside, you know? Pitt's performance is
mostly funny, Richard Jenkins is great as the boss at the fitness
center, and the guys playing government types will always get
But, typical Coen Brothers-like violence appears in this film, and
that will turn off a few people; stretches of scenes that go nowhere
or remind us of each person's "background" (right, Harry likes to go
for a run; right, Linda needs surgery) fill up a large majority of
the film's short 90-minute running time. At the end of the
day, "Burn After Reading" falls into the pipe of Coen Brothers
mediocrity shared by movies like
"Intolerable Cruelty" and
just okay, and you probably won't need to see it ever again.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard