Burned out

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Apparently No Country for Old Men was just too linear and too successful for the Coen brothers. Their latest, the star-studded Burn After Reading, is an incomprehensible mess of a paranoid political-thriller satire that's bound to rival Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers as the biggest misstep in their otherwise brilliant careers.

Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a former CIA analyst who decides to write his memoir - which he pretentiously pronounces as "mem-wah" - rather than take a demotion to the state department. His already-cheating wife (Tilda Swinton) makes a record of their finances for their impending divorce, which is saved on a disc that's lost at the gym.

Two of the gym's trainers (Frances McDormand and an over-acting Brad Pitt) decide to return the disc, which they believe is full of spy secrets, expecting a reward from Osborne, but things get messy when Osborne believes the pair are trying to blackmail him.

And, oh yeah, George Clooney's Harry is sleeping with both women.

The film's trailers certainly make it look like a crazy laugh-riot, but there's only about a half-dozen hysterical moments - anything with J.K. Simmons' baffled CIA supervisor, for instance.

There's a good chance Burn After Reading will become a minor cult hit, simply because it features so many A-listers acting so completely insane. With The Big Lebowski celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, however, it's clear how inferior Burn is compared to that cult smash.