Most of the criticism of this movie has centered on its lack of heart and the imbecility of its characters. That's fair, although it is a Coen Bros. movie and it is very broad farce, so heartlessness and stupidity kinda come with the territory. Until the Coens kill off the best nitwit in the movie, BAR is actually very funny. After that, I gave up hope that it was going to be another Big Lebowski--or close to it. It seemed to me, actually, that the Coens and their actors rather gave up hope too, as if they didn't quite know how to carry on without their best moron. (It would be like killing off Marge Gunderson halfway through Fargo.)
Once he was gone, the comedy lost its way and its laughs (although there were still a few mean-spirited chuckes here and there), and became a merely mechanical and not particularly inspired or satisfying tieing together of the plot's very loose ends--in other words, half Lebowski and half No Country For Old Men. I liked it for its first half--and might even see it again for Brad Pitt's terrific performance, parts of Clooney's (I loved Harry's fascination with flooring and his self-proclaimed allergy to various food groups--including "shellfood"--and, although I saw it coming, I liked his handiwork, too), and chunks of McDormand's, Malkovich's, Swinton's, and Jenkins'. But as droll as its starts off, Burn After Reading ain't one of the Coens' great ones--although it might have been if they hadn't been in such an ill-considered rush to be done with it and their best and most likable idiot.