A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot.
Billy Bob Thornton,
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
Joel and Ethan Coen's thirteenth film is a return to their quirky lullabies after 2007's Best Picture winning grand work 'No Country for Old Men'. 'Burn After Reading' stars Frances McDormand as Linda and Brad Pitt as Chad, both fairly dumb gym-trainees who're in possession of a disk containing some valuable and hopefully juicy memoirs from a recently fired CIA-agent Osbourne Cox, played by John Malkovich. They want to blackmail him so they can get money for her plastic surgery operations. Meanwhile Malkovich's wife Katie, (played by Tilda Swinton) is secretly dating internet-cruiser Harry (George Clooney) who's also cheating on his spouse, and is cheating on Katie again with exactly Linda.
It's adultery, it's espionage-light, it's body before brains, and it's a cynical view of America. How seriously cynical it is is another question, but for me not a very important one. The story is mainly pieced together by good performances in classic Coen-roles, especially Malkovich who's mainly pi**ed-off and actually the most professional in the whole film; Brad Pitt doesn't add much substance but he adds belly laughs with iPod, bicycle and a bleeding nose; McDormand has great body language as she does everything in her power to fix her nose, belly, breasts and bum; Swinton is cool, cold and clutching between her two parallel lives, and Clooney makes mostly weird grimaces as a ladies' man, and adds paranoia to the whole "soon-they'll-know-where-you-are-at-any-give-time" CIA stupidity. 'Burn After Reading' is Coen-lite, but Coen lite is way better than most American stuff out there. J.K. Simmons as CIA-superior gives some fine dialog throughout his brief appearance as; "Report back to me when it makes sense", and "I'm fu**ed if I know what we did" - pretty insightful actually.
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