Coens create clever CIA comedy

David Wiens

I am not going to dance around it or build up to it; I loved “Burn After Reading” and I think you should go see it. I also think that a lot of senior citizens don’t have much consideration for other people while watching movies, but I’m not opening that door.

After last weekend’s lack of box office revenue, or, for that matter, lack of any movies worth seeing, I was relieved to have the Coen Brothers’ return to comedy for my return to the theater. For anyone still hung up on “No Country For Old Men,” Joel and Ethan Coen have a long history of comedic brilliance with “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and the cult hit “The Big Lebowski.”

“Burn After Reading” has all the makings of an intrigue-filled crime drama that keeps your mind on edge until the very end, except that all the characters trying to do this happen to be, well, hapless. From beginning to end nobody seems to know what they’re doing or why.

The plot itself is a mess of sex, lies and stupidity. The epitome of all this being, more or less, Linda Litzke, played by Frances McDormand. A woman going through a string of pathetic men she meets through an Internet dating website, Linda is desperately trying to get the money for cosmetic surgery that her medical insurance won’t cover. She takes control of the situation when her overexcited coworker, played by Brad Pitt, finds a disk listing numbers, names and other words that convince him this is top-secret CIA information. After striking out trying to sell it back to the owner, an allegedly alcoholic analyst named Osborne Cox, played by John Malkovich, she decides to sell it to the Russians.

Why the Russians? No one knows, not even the Russians. Throughout all of this she is carrying on a relationship with a promiscuous Treasury employee who is inexplicably interested in floor tiles.

Though I won’t tell you which way this spins or where it lands, I will tell you that the genius of the whole plot comes in the last scene where, like all good spy movies should, they explain everything. On the topic of endings, I would like to finish with gratitude toward the writers or editors, or whoever finally had the conviction to cut a movie under two hours for the first time in what seems like years.