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Burn After Reading

Yo-Ho, MoFo's. MovieMaker here, fresh off the presses after seeing Burn After Reading, the newest flick from one of Hollywood's most creative talents, the Coen Brothers. Unlike most of my other reviews in which I incorporate a little story into them, there wasn't much of a story other than five friends and myself saw this film together, which was memorable enough for me.

Anywho, the Coen Brother's I felt had it easy going for them for this film - they had just won 2007's Best Picture Oscar for No Country For Old Men, and I feel that most people expected yet another excellent picture, albeit not on par with No Country, but rather a dark comedy in line with that of Fargo, with some expecting it to top or at least be as funny as their cult hit, The Big Lebowski. I should probably state now that this is the first script penned down by the brother's since their 2001 film, The Man Who Wasn't There.

What intrigued me the most about this film immediately was its cast of actors portraying an intertwining cast of characters. For me, I love a film with lots of characters. It brings about the story more, pulls the viewer in, causing you to pay attention more and figure out who's doing what. In Burn After Reading, the brothers do just that, creating a world in which one person's actions dictate that of another's later on.

The cast was indeed well casted, Brad Pitt stealing the show in my opinion (always remember that this is just my opinion, this whole review, not fact) with Clooney, Malkovich and Frances McDormand following right behind. McDormand's character alone made an innocent presence in the film I felt (although her character is by far not an innocent one), doing what she felt was best for her and just trying to accomplish a goal in her life for her own wellbeing. Pitt's character was very well done - he fit the role, and it was different seeing him in something else (as well as not as being as ripped as he usually is). For a Coen Brother's film, his placement was sufficient.

However, for a character to be so well developed, what the Brother's did to him was something that left me feeling a bit bummed out, and for my friends around me, it was when the film started to head down south. As well were the trailers, which my friend and I both agreed that they mislead the viewers into thinking the film was a legit dark comedy involving a disc that had secret CIA information stored on it, when in all reality it was actually just the personal memoir written by alcoholic abusing ex-agent Osborne Cox, played by Malkovich. The disc wound up in the hands of his soon-to-be ex-wife, played by Tilda Swinton, who was printing off information about her and her husband's financial stance so that she could see to it that she got her fair part in the divorce settlement. In a series of coincidental mishaps, the disc with the misleading information ends up at a gym where Chad Feldheimer and his co-worker, Linda Litzke, played by Pitt and McDormand, attempt to blackmail Cox for his disc (by means of Feldheimer's super-computer geek of a friend, they have found Cox's name written on some documents, coming to a conclusion after doing some intense research that the stuff on the document was CIA information, and that Cox was the one who was handling it before it got lost in the gym). It's also around here that the film's other half of the plot involving Harry Pfarrer, helmed by ex-Batman George Clooney, comes into play, where Pfarrer plays the not-so-honest man who sleeps around with various characters in the film, mainly Swinton's and McDormand's, thus causing a parallel chain of events that eventually, like most film plots, connect with everything else to form the film's conclusion (which was done in a hilarious manner and ended the film on a note that would normally annoy most people but I felt it worked in this picture), which I have obviously left out, as well as some other plot points.

Now I said that I felt the trailer's were misleading, and I still feel that way - this film wasn't about a disc that had CIA information on it and now it was the government vs. a duo of average citizens. It was a film in which a big misunderstanding made everyone assume the worse and take the actions that would only benefit themselves in the end, and I realized that that was funny and better than the cliché of a plot that I thought the trailers had in it. But some parts in the plot were also confusing, as you would expect (after all, with lots of characters doing their own individual things, you're bound to find yourself scratching your head at some point), and there were even some parts in which I felt weren't just fitting for the film, especially in a Coen Brother's film.

But now, let's finally focus in on the fact that this is a Coen Brother's film. How does it go on par with their other films? Personally, I felt the film itself good have been better to a certain level - the beginning was slow, then it was great in the middle up until a certain point (if you've seen the film then you know which point I'm talking about. If you haven't, let's just say it involves hiding in a closet), and then after that, it started to get a little bit confusing, what with all the character's running around, intertwining in each other's lives (like J.K. Simmons character had said, it's just a big "clusterf**k") and so forth. This was also the first film in which Coen Brother's regular, cinematograher Roger Deakins, did not shoot (his first work with the duo being 1990's Miller's Crossing), and I felt that a certain cinematic style that I had seen in the brother's earlier films was missing. Also, the music for the film was a little over-powering and too dramatic, making the viewer think that a big event was about to unfold when in all reality it wasn't something as big as the rising crescendo made it out to be. I for one personally feel that what drives a Coen Brother's film isn't necessarily the plot, but rather the characters in the plot. This shouldn't come as a surprise to many - the Dude from The Big Lebowski, along with his Vietnam-soaked insane friend Walter (who I felt I saw a little bit of coming from Malkovich's character, Osborne Cox, in some small scenes), the character's played by Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona, and John Turturro as the titular character in the dramedy Barton Fink. I've just named mostly the character's in the duo's previous comedic films to show that they can create good and memorable character's to carry a film's plot on their backs, and while they may have stumbled in doing so, the cast from Burn After Reading managed to do just that.

While it's no No Country For Old Men, it's far better than the brother's previous comedy, The Ladykillers, and an obvious few notches below The Big Lebowski. In other words, it's worth a viewing at least one time, and chances are, you'll end up enjoying the end result.

My final verdict?

7.5 out of 10*

* - I usually don't give ".5" ratings, but I felt that this was an appropriate time to do so. While some qualities of the film I didn't enjoy, a lot of of it I did enjoy, so I was torn between giving it either a 7 or an 8, so I finally just said "F it" and put it smack dab in the middle.