An ousted CIA official’s memoir accidentally falls into the hands of two unwise gym employees intent on exploiting their find. (Focus Features)
After the portentous “No Country for Old Men,” Joel and Ethan Coen return to their trademark brand of cruel, misanthropic farce, and for dark laughs and hurtling narrative momentum this spy caper is their best work since “Fargo.”
That’s the paradox that makes this parade of folly so much fun: it feels as if everyone involved is having a high old time, and their enthusiasm is contagious.
It would be no country for movie lovers without the Coens. They still manage to run unmuzzled while the rest of Hollywood runs scared.
Joel and Ethan Coen clearly are in a prankish mood, knocking out a minor piece of silliness with all the trappings of an A-list studio movie.
The film has enough funny lines and weird situations – some comedy business with a sex chair lovingly constructed by the Clooney character is the highlight – that it could age into a cult film like “The Big Lebowski.”
Burn After Reading is untranscendent, a little tired, the first Coen brothers picture on autopilot. In the words of the CIA superior, it’s “no biggie.”
Either the Coens failed, or I didn’t figure out what they’re attempting. I must be like Harry or Osborne, pretending to a sophistication I lack. Burn After Reading is a movie about stupidity that left me feeling stupid.