As in many of the Coen Brothers' films, Barton Fink contains a menagerie of grotesque supporting characters, the polar opposites of the simple but noble common men about whom Barton writes. Chief amongst these is Charlie Meadows(John Goodman), Barton's jovial and loyal next-door neighbour at the hotel. Charly is later revealed to be the alter-ego of Karl 'Madman' Muntz, a serial killer with a penchant for decapitating his victims. Also featured is Bill Mayhew, a drunken novelist now working for the studio system, whose great works of the past turn out to have been ghostwritten by his mistress, Audrey.
Barton Fink is an oddly-structured film with many sudden shifts in dramatic tone and nods to many genres, from film noir to pschycological drama to farce. The denoument, in which Charlie/Muntz sets fire to the hotel and guns down a pair of feds, is particularly (perhaps purposefully) jarring. However, the performances are universally excellent, it is beautifully staged and shot, and one could never accuse the Coens of being boring or predictable.