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Burn After Reading (2008)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  12 September 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 235,014 users   Metascore: 63/100
Reviews: 539 user | 334 critic | 37 from Metacritic.com

A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.




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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 4 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
CIA Superior (as JK Simmons)
J.R. Horne ...
Divorce Lawyer (as JR Horne)


Osbourne Cox, a Balkan expert, is fired at the CIA, so he begins a memoir. His wife wants a divorce and expects her lover, Harry, a philandering State Department marshal, to leave his wife. A diskette falls out of a gym bag at a Georgetown fitness center. Two employees there try to turn it into cash: Linda, who wants money for elective surgery, and Chad, an amiable goof. Information on the disc leads them to Osbourne who rejects their sales pitch; then they visit the Russian embassy. To sweeten the pot, they decide they need more of Osbourne's secrets. Meanwhile, Linda's boss likes her, and Harry's wife leaves for a book tour. All roads lead to Osbourne's house. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

memoir | gym | cia | embassy | divorce | See All (137) »


Intelligence is relative. See more »


Comedy | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

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Release Date:

12 September 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Quémese después de leerse  »

Box Office


$37,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$19,128,001 (USA) (12 September 2008)


$60,338,891 (USA) (19 December 2008)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Coen Brothers wrote the character Osborne Cox with John Malkovich in mind. Brad Pitt's character was also written with the actor in mind, inspired by a commercial for which he suffered a similar haircut and dye job. Indeed, the Coen Brothers noted at a Q&A session at the Venice Film Festival that all the leading characters were written for all the leading actors, with the exception of Tilda Swinton. See more »


Olive St. is depicted to be a one-way street, from the way the cars are parked. But the "SCHOOL ZONE" paint on the pavement faces the opposite direction to the supposed one-way traffic. See more »


Krapotkin: This is Mr Krapotkin from the Russian embassy.
Linda Litzke: Mr Crapkin... Is this a secure line?
Krapotkin: Are you joking?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Cort Hessler's name appears twice. He was a Stunt Driver on the film. See more »


Featured in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Episode #20.72 (2012) See more »


Moon Over Western River
Performed by Wei-min Ying (as Xiao Ying)
Courtesy of ARC Music Productions International Limited
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Another Hit from the genius of the Coens.
4 September 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There's a point in this movie that George Clooney's character, Harry Pfarrer shows Frances McDormand's character Linda Litzke something that we've seen him working on for about half the movie. It was so surprising when I first saw it, that at first, I didn't even know what it was.

Once again, the Coens have created wonderful characters, including Clooney, who is a womanizer and paranoid that people are following him, and McDormand, who just wants plastic surgery in order to look better. Also, there's John Malkovich as Osbourne Cox, who "doesn't have a drinking problem," and maybe the best in the movie, Brad Pitt as Chad, a clueless gym employee who is pushed along by McDormand.

The only character that isn't up to par with the rest is Tilda Swinton's character of Katie Cox, Osbourne's wife. She doesn't get as many laughs as the rest, and it seems like the Coens just needed her as a plot device rather than an actual character. However, she may not be funny, but she does play the character well.

The writing is brilliant and the Coens weave the story in such a way that it reminds me of their previous movie, The Big Lebowski. In the end, as J.K. Simmons character sums it up himself, nothing really happens, but while watching it all unfold, you can't help but laugh at the absurdity.

235 of 444 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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