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</script></div>{/googleAds}With a Coen Brothers film, the only thing more certain than uncertainty itself, is the expectation of being treated to the more offbeat aspects of an unpredictable plot involving a gaggle of buffoonish characters.

The makers of such fiendishly humorous comedies as Fargo and The Big Lebowski always find a way to lovingly mock the idiocy and nonsensicality of the human condition. They're never clever or cunning in their methods, but that's what makes their films so darn entertaining... and Burn After Reading is no exception. It's a goofy espionage thriller wrapped in the skin of a black comedy that mocks all things wrong with our litigious and paranoid society obsessed with good looks and financial success.

Burn After ReadingIt's an in-your-face goofball exaggeration delivered with the measured precision of a Vaudevillian team made up of such A-listers as Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovich, all in top form. They play a bunch of miserable pricks that wallow in their own misery and ineptitude. None are necessarily loveable, but we're sure to find a bit of ourselves in any one of the characters, as each thinks he's at the center of the world, orbited by idiots.

Malkovich is Osborne Cox a bulldog-tough CIA man recently fired due to either his drinking or because he didn't kiss enough asses in the chain of command. Regardless, he's no match for his icy, calculating wife (Tilda Swinton), who is involved in an affair with a U.S. Marshall, Harry (George Clooney.) Cox's egocentricity is reflected in his belief that anyone would be interested in reading his memoir, the writing of which occupies his newfound spare time.

The shenanigans are set into motion when Chad (Brad Pitt) and Linda (Frances McDormand) find a copy of Cox's writings on the floor of the gym where they work. They immediately contact Cox, in a hilarious phone call, with the offer to return the disc, but only with the condition that they collect a "Good Samaritan" fee. We've never seen Pitt like this before as he cans the sexy and goes for slapstick goofy. He steals nearly every scene with his moronic but strangely endearing Chad.

Clooney's Harry is equally harebrained, but infinitely more complex. He's running several concurrent relationships coordinated through an online dating site, which eventually hooks him up with Linda and Chad. The Coens seem have a lot to say about the state of the institution of marriage in America. Their mockery of it reflects the lack of seriousness with which we enter its sanctity. Sadly, they're on to something here.

As expected, the Coens concoct brilliantly clever ways of intersecting the lives and stories of the characters during the course of the film... often under violently Coen'esque' circumstances. But of course, all the absurdity wouldn't work without the magnificent performances of the ensemble cast. Line after line of clever quips is delivered with near-perfect pitch, each surpassing the previous in its mirth and effectiveness.

Burn After Reading isn't a perfect film by any means as it has a bit too much to say about too many disparate topics, but for those of us constantly clamoring for something new and refreshing out of the Hollywood fluff machine, it'll do just fine.

Component Grades
4 stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
3.5 stars


DVD Details:

Widescreen Edition

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD; French: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurette; behind-the-scenes featurette; cast and crew interviews.

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with co-directors Ash Brannon and Chris Buck and producer Chris Jenkins
* Featurettes
o Finding the Burn
o DC Insiders Run Amuck
o Welcome Back George

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging