Coens Burn, But Not Brightly

No Country follow-up funny, but not the brothers' best
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2008 5:11 PM CDT

(Newser) Burn After Reading is your standard Coen Brothers comedy: It’s black, clever, and zany, and David Ansen writes in Newsweek that he “enjoyed just about every heartlessly jolly minute of it.” The film is nominally a spy/thriller spoof, its sidewinder plot involving airhead gym employees trying to sell supposed secrets to the Russians. But really, it’s less a spoof than an “escalating farce of idiotic behavior” from a “cast of delusional dunces who are a wonder to behold.”

The main characters are all “broadly played, dim-witted grotesque wearing his or her own distinctively stricken kabuki mask,” writes J. Hoberman in the Village Voice. But though all are well played, none emerges as a sympathetic character, making it a “comedy without consequences.” Richard Corliss in Time couldn’t figure out what the brothers were trying to do, making Burn “a movie about stupidity that left me feeling stupid.”