Puffed-up to the point of bursting by its directors' sense of their own cleverness, "Burn After Reading" emerges as collage of every flaw in the Coens' oeuvre. The ham-fisted screenplay and seen-it-all-before Coen humor makes this film one of their worst. In fact, I could hardly believe that the brothers were even capable of producing such an inane piece of crap. I hope to God that they don't keep resting on their laurels creating films like this, especially after the power and scope of the fantastic "No Country for Old Men".
To tell the truth, I don't really like the Coens. They are incredibly condescending to their audience in almost every one of their films (but especially the comedies), and the way they depict southerners and minority characters as novelties rather than real people really offends me. Their gallery of the "absurd" (i.e. non-whites and Red Staters) was refreshingly absent in NCFOM - for the most part. The Dillahunt and Grant characters were staples of the old style.
This film is the most egregious example of their "smarter-than-thou" attitude that I've seen. Their attempts at humor are so pompous that they aren't even funny. We've seen these jokes in a million other films, and just because they're now being told by the COEN BROTHERS doesn't mean they're fresh or amusing. Such a sordid blend of bad jokes and gruesome violence does not a successful black comedy make.
An all-star cast is wasted here. Frances McDormand ladles out the tics and twitches and somehow makes her idiotic character even more loathsome than it already is on the page. George Clooney and John Malkovich churn out their usual shpiels. Brad Pitt shows a flair for comedy hitherto unseen, but it's still completely affected. Tilda Swinton fares the best here - she's a perfect fit for the role and she's very funny. Supporting character thesps, such as Richard Jenkins and J.K. Simmons, are wasted.