Saturday, August 22, 2009

Burn Notice

We bring to a close our festival of the clever, thought-provoking thrillers with the Coen Bros. Burn After Reading. It begins with a shaven-headed John Malkovich, looking a lot like James Carville, as an alcoholic, rage-filled CIA analyst who has just lost his job. A nasty confrontation with his vicious wife Tilda Swinton gets him thinking about writing a tell-all memoir.

A disc of the draft of the memoir falls into the hands of Brad Pitt, an idiot working at Hard Bodies gym, and Frances MacDormand, his co-worker who needs a lot of money for plastic surgery. They decide to blackmail Malkovich, or failing that, sell the disc to the Russians. Only, Swinton has cleaned out his bank account in a divorce move, and the Russians don't care.

Meanwhile, Swinton is getting it on with George Clooney, still in full Paul Krugman drag (he even works in Treasury). Clooney is a gun-toting narcissistic womanizer, whose wife, a children's book author, is on tour, leaving the field open for ...

Since this is a clever, thought-provoking thriller, things get complicated, and not everything gets explained. Since it is Coen Bros., most of the characters are more or less idiots, self-deluded and often, doomed. These antics are watched over by CIA execs JK Simmons (JJ Jameson) and David Rasche (Sledge Hammer!). They make sure everything is tidy in the end, and pronounce the moral, "I'm fucked if I know what we did."

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