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Pyrmont Reviews: Burn After Reading

burn after reading poster Pyrmont Reviews: Burn After ReadingHey Pyrmont People, if you are thinking of seeing Burn After Reading check out our review by Denieal Williams.

In their follow-up to the Oscar winning No Country For Old Men, Ethan and Joel Coen return to their signature twisted form of storytelling in the dark comedy Burn After Reading.

Laughably named Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) leaves his job as a CIA agent after being seemingly demoted for a drinking problem. Resentful of what he feels to be a politically motivated ‘crucifixion,’ Osborne decides to write a tell-all memoir about the CIA.

Meanwhile unbeknownst to him, his harsh and unforgiving wife Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton) has been having an affair with Federal Marshal Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). Harry, married to a famous Children’s Writer, has the distinction of never firing his weapon in over 20 years of active service.

A disk containing Osborne’s personal files and information Katie has been gathering to begin divorce proceedings ends up in the hands of two dimwitted gym employees. Hardbodies Fitness Center employee, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) is on the search for love. Of course to find this love she has to transform herself through multiple plastic surgeries. But her ‘transformation’ isn’t covered by insurance and she is desperate to get the money. When her co-worker Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) procures a disk from the janitor that he thinks has classified government information; the two embark on an adventure to try to blackmail the owner of the disk.

The film starts off brilliantly which is almost a given with heavy weights like George Clooney, Brad Pitt and John Malkovich. Clooney is convincing as the ineffectual and sleazy Harry Pfarrer and Malkovich is hilarious as the bitter self-important Osborne. Yet all the characters are trapped in one dimension by the Coen brothers seemingly smug need to make them beside the point. Mid-film the brothers seem to loose interest in developing the characters and the story further.

Because of this the film looses its potency and it’s frustrating when murder becomes a plot device for resolution. The comic misadventures and intriguing interconnectedness of the characters lives is undermined by an underdeveloped conclusion and what seems to be an attempt to float on the charisma of the protagonists. One can’t help but feel ‘meh’ about Burn After Reading, which is a shame when so much talent is involved. Like a punchline stretched too far this film fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

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