The title should be changed to "Burn Before Watching". It’s an awful movie. I laughed a lot during Burn After Reading (2008). I laughed at it, not because of it. Given my general disdain for Coen Brothers movies, I only went to see it because a good friend paid for my ticket (it was my birthday).
This bit of drivel attracted yet another star studded cast, all of whom wasted their considerable talents on a movie about hapless physical trainers (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) trying to ply a hapless ex-CIA agent (John Malkovich) for money in exchange for the return of electronic documents of questionable intelligence value.
Tilda Swinton, who won the Best Supporting Actress award for her terrific performance in Michael Clayton (2007), was wasted as Malkovich’s one-dimensional, witch-of-a-philandering-wife. George Clooney reprised his O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) buffoonery as a Treasury Department body guard, engaged in multiple affairs with the Swinton and McDormand characters, among others.
With the notable exception of Fargo (1996) (that I mildly enjoyed for its quirky eccentricities) and Intolerable Cruelty (2003) (which was mildly OK), I have uniformly disliked every other Coen Brothers movie I’ve seen including: Raising Arizona (1987), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) (though there is always something magical about a Billy Bob Thornton performance) and the extremely over-hyped movie No Country for Old Men (2007).
I do not understand why the Hollywood intelligentsia consider the Coen Bros to be movie-making geniuses. There movies are quirky, goofy, boring, often outrageous and almost always incomprehensible.
Unless you are a through-and-through Cohen Bros fan, avoid this one like the plague. Even my avowed Coen Brother-loving friend thought it was bad. You have been warned.