Kicking off the Venice Film Festival today is Joel and Ethan Coen’s Burn After Reading. Andrew Pulver of The Guardian, UK, says: Clocking in at a crisp 95 minutes, Burn After Reading is a tightly wound, slickly plotted spy comedy that couldn’t be in bigger contrast to the Coens’ last film, the bloodsoaked, brooding No Country for Old Men. Burn, in comparison, is bit of a bantamweight: fast moving, lots of attitude, and uncorking a killer punch when it can. Where does this film leave the Coens? Their unique position, as darlings of both the Hollywood set and the festival circuit, is unchanged. What they have managed to come up with here, somehow, is a light-as-fluff flipside to hardcore “insider” films like All the President’s Men, Michael Clayton or, indeed, The Insider: it paints the powers-that-be as goofy, chaotic and definitively non-sinister. This lot, you feel, couldn’t bug their way out of a paper bag. That’s as spoiler-free as any excerpt I could find. Anyone who’s read the script and wants to talk about the plot, please be sure to top off your comment with a SPOILER ALERT, ok? The twists and switchbacks are the source of most of the fun, and most of us will want to experience those on the screen. BBC video press clip. “We-are-not-amused” Variety review, plus group photos of the directors and cast after the cut. Todd McCarthy, Variety A seriously talented cast has been asked to act like cartoon characters in this tale of desperation, mutual suspicion and vigorous musical beds, all in the name of laughs that only sporadically ensue. Everything here, from the thesps‚Äô heavy mugging to the uncustomarily overbearing score by Carter Burwell and the artificially augmented vulgarities in the dialogue, has been dialed up to an almost grotesquely exaggerated extent, making for a film that feels misjudged from the opening scene and thereafter only occasionally hits the right note. The Coens‚Äô script, which feels immature but was evidently written around the same time as that for ‚ÄúNo Country,‚Äù is just too fundamentally silly, without the grounding of a serious substructure that would make the sudden turn to violence catch the viewer up short. Nothing about the project‚Äôs execution inspires the feeling that this was ever intended as anything more than a lark, which would be fine if it were a good one. As it is, audience teeth-grinding sets in early and never lets up. Oh well. 8 Oscars for the Brothers Coen is enough for now. Who can blame them for relaxing with a fluffy palette-cleanser after serving up something as rich and fulfilling as No Country for Old Men?