On Netflix Now: We’re Watching ‘Burn After Reading’

Burn After Reading is a 2008 crime / comedy about a disk containing mysterious information from a CIA agent that ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous and daft gym employees who attempt to sell it.

If there is any consistency to the Coen Brothers, it is there inconsistency in films styles. While themes remain the same perhaps, they always find clever and unique ways to tell a story, and their follow-up to the award-winning No Country For Old Men seemed right out of left field. Starring Brad PittGeorge Clooney, and Frances McDormand, it follows the consequences of a disillusioned CIA analyst (John Malkovich) who quits and writes his memoirs, only to have the files loaded onto a CD, which is then accidently left behind at a local gym. There, two employees think they’ve stumbled upon a chance to get rich, but really only find themselve way, way, way over their heads. Quirky to the Nth degree with Pitt in rare comedic form, this is an unusual but very entertaining entry in the Coen catalog, mixing their typical ingredients of funny and violence.


A great cast and clever script keep this crackling along, with plenty of genuine laughs and a few jarring surprises. A biting satire no matter how you look at.

It’s not quite as richly textured as some of their more critically favored films, and the frankly dumb actions of a few characters can grow a little tiresome.