Burn After Reading sports some familiar ingredients: A hapless hero who has stolen something? Check. Someone crazy wants it back? Check. In fact, distinctive elements pop up again and again. Put ’em together and make your own Coen brothers film!
whelmed Hero The Double-
bearing Authority Figures A Relentless Villain Who Embodies Fate Stolen
Goods And/Or People Bad Hair! Unlikely Weapons Blood Simple
Bar Manager Ray Husband hires private dick to snoop on wife, gets killed instead. Bar owner Julian Marty. Private detective Loren Visser. $10,000 missing from Marty’s safe. X X Raising Arizona
Ex-con H.I. McDunnough Hi steals baby for wife; ex-con buds re-steal baby for reward. Nathan Arizona, owner of Unpainted Arizona. Leonard Smalls, lone motorcyclist of the Apocalypse. Nathan Jr., one of the Arizona quints. Pomade-
obsessed ex-cons Gale and Evelle Snoats X Fargo
Salesman Jerry Lundegaard Jerry has wife kidnapped to get ransom money from her rich dad. Wade Gustafson, Jerry’s employer and father-in-law. Swedish ex-con Gaear Grimsrud. Jerry’s wife, Jean; ransom money gets held for ransom. Kidnapper Carl Showalter’s sleazy mustache. Wood chipper The Big Lebowski
Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski A wife’s kidnapping is used to embezzle money. Jeffrey Lebowski, the “other” Jeffrey Lebowski. Three German nihilists who turn out to be shams. The Dude’s rug and car; $1 million. Do White Russian–
soaked beards count? A ferret. The Man Who Wasn’t There
Sad-Sack Barber Ed Crane Ed blackmails man having affair with his wife—her boss… … department-
store owner Big Dave Brewster. X A hard-won $10,000 intended for dry-
cleaning business. Budding dry-cleaning mogul’s horrendous toupee. Cigar cutter made from Japanese dagger. O Brother Where Art Thou?
Ulysses Everett McGill Everett lies to fellow inmates so they’ll escape with him. Mississippi governor Menelaus “Pappy” O’Daniel. Satanic Sheriff Cooley. $1.2 million in supposedly stolen and buried treasure. Everybody except Everett, who does wear a hairnet. X No Country For Old Men
Vietnam Vet Llewelyn Moss Drug dealer hires hit man to off hit man originally hired. Unnamed drug dealer who hires the hit men. Psycho, heads-
or-tails hit man Anton Chigurh. A bag full of stolen drug money. Chigurh’s Prince Valiant haircut. A captive bolt pistol.