When dopey gym employees Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) find a computer disc that they believe contains top-secret material, they decide to blackmail its owner, ex-CIA analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich). As negotiations between both parties descend into chaos, Linda starts dating womanising Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), who has also been having an affair with Cox's wife Katie (Tilda Swinton).
Drawn into Linda's ill-advised plot, Harry soon realises he's way out of his depth as the novice blackmailers' greed leads to a series of very unfortunate events.
A complete U-turn following the brooding tone the Coen's multi Oscar-winning triumph No Country For Old Men, this farcical comedy of errors gives the choice cast the chance to cut loose with some wild and woolly characterisations. Pitt is particularly memorable playing against type as the fey, childlike Chad, with Clooney displaying his considerable talent for portraying conceited, self-involved clowns. While the cast is stuffed with stars, it's underrated character actor J.K. Simmons - best known as J Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man series - who ties the film together, playing the baffled CIA director vainly attempting to make sense of the mayhem Chad and Linda have unleashed.