Burn After Reading

Nobody does blacker comedy than those brilliant Coen brothers ("Blood Simple," "Fargo," "Miller's Crossing," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "No Country for Old Men"), so brace yourself! These guys do NOT shy away from scenes that will make you cringe even as you laugh.

This is one of those movie where the confidence of the production team absolutely leaps off the screen. You know from the get-go that your entertainment dollar will be well spent, so long as you remember that after the tenth "F" word (about two minutes into the opening scene!), the word WILL lose its punch.

Once again the Coens have assembled a sterling cast, starting with John Malkovich ("Being John Malkovich," "The Man in the Iron Mask" and "Rounders") as a CIA operative who is abruptly terminated from his job. One of his accusers explains that it is because he drinks too much. Malkovich's character spits back, "You're a Mormon! To you, EVERYONE drinks too much!" (I've cleaned it up...smile...) Rather than feel demeaned by a transfer to a lesser job somewhere else in Government, he resigns and sets about writing his memoirs.

Our hero's wife is played by Tilda Swinton ("The Deep End" and "Michael Clayton"), who is having an affair with a promiscuous Treasury man, portrayed by George Clooney ("Ocean's 11, 12, & 13" and "Leatherheads"). Both of these characters are singularly unsympathetic, even though Clooney is always polite and charming to the many, many ladies in his busy life.

The plot picks up speed when two dim-witted health club employees, played by Brad Pitt ("Babel," "Troy," "Fight Club" and "The Assassination of Jesse James...") and Frances McDormand ("Paradise Road," "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," "Laurel Canyon" and "North Country"), stumble across a disc that seems to hold proprietary information. McDormand's character desperately wants money to pay for plastic surgery, as she intends to "start fresh" despite the obvious affection extended to her by her lovelorn boss, played by Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor," "Rumor Has It" and "Fun With Dick and Jane"). On the other hand, I think Pitt's character just wants to feel important. Pitt, in my opinion, has the funniest role and knocks it out of the park!

Now we get to watch as these lame-brains try to find a way to capitalize on the disc...but remember, this is black, BLACK comedy...