Reviewer's grade: C+
Osborne Cox (John Malkovich, "Eragon," "Beowulf") is an intelligence agent recently ousted from his post on the Balkans desk of the CIA. Dour, but determined to use the downtime to write a memoir, Cox's career move means more chastisi ng from his ball-busting physician wife (Tilda Swinton, "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," "Michael Clayton"), a cold shrew who is warming the sheets with family friend Harry Pfarrer, (George Clooney, "Leatherheads," "Michael Clayton") a philandering U.S. marshal. Some of Cox's notes are left at a local gym, falling into the hands of two employees: percolating personal trainer Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford") and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand, "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day"), a sad, single woman struggling with body image issues and in constant battle with her insurance company over coverage for elective cosmetic surgery.
Feldheimer, sensing adventure, convinces Litzke the notes are important intelligence documents and, at her urging, they blackmail an increasingly erratic Cox and threaten to sell the notes to Russians. "Burn After Reading" should have been a lot wilder of a ride, but the tedious feel of the script offsets hilarious performances from some of the actors.
Coen diehards are likely to be satisfied with "Burn After Reading, " which delivers plenty of scripted insanity and quotes worth rehashing, but the brothers are capable of more. "Burn After Reading" shouldn't be burned after seeing, but probably won't be seared into your brain like other Coen films. R