(director/writer: Chris Morris; screenwriters: Jesse Armstrong, Sean Gray, Tony Roche; cinematographer: Marcel Zyskind.; editor: Billy Sneddon; music: Jonathan Whitehead, Sebastian Rochford, Chris Morris; cast: Andrel McPherson (Farmer Afrika), Miles Robbins (Josh), Anna Kendrick (Kendra Glack), Marchant Davis (Moses Al Shabazz), Kayyan Novak (Reza), Denis O’Hare (Andy Mudd), Adam David Thompson (Stevie Book), Jim Gaffigan (Lemmy), Danielle Brooks (Venus), Michael Braun (Richard Signal), Malcolm M. Mays (Farmer X), Pej Vahdat (Nura), Calah Lane (Rosa); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Anne Carey, Chris Morris, Derrin Schlesinger; IFC; 2019-UK/USA)

“The rare film where the terrorists are viewed with more sympathy than the FBI.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

English writer-director Chris Morris (“Four Lions”) spares no zingers as he chillingly mocks the FBI and America’s so-called War on Terror in this satirical comedy about terrorism, his first feature film since his 2009 politically satirical acclaimed the “Four Lions,” about a dangerous Islamic suicide bomber terror cell. It’s co-written by Morris and Jesse Armstrong, Sean Gray and Tony Roche, and is the rare film where the terrorists are viewed with more sympathy than the FBI.

The plot relates to how the crooked FBI agents arranged for an innocent messianic African-American cult leader to be arrested by claiming he posed a nuclear threat.They thereby hope to show the public how they are needed to fight the war against terrorism so their agency can still be funded even if no longer needed.

The filmmaker tells us that even if the plot seems absurd, it’s “based on a hundred true stories.”  Morris in this film was inspired by the case of the Liberty City Seven back in 2006, when a foolish Miami-based African-American cult called the Universal Divine Saviors was set-up for an FBI sting. Agents pretending to be from al Qaeda offered them money to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago.

If this isn’t a divisive plot line, I don’t know what is, as it goes wholly for black comedy and thereby hides its real anger over how idiotic are both the terrorists and the FBI.

The loopy tale centers around the Miami residing sweetheart, the impoverished black farmer Moses Al Shabazz (Marchant Davis) and his Star of Six church, in the projects.The delusional preacher, suffering from a mental illness has become more wacky than usual since not taking his prescribed meds, and believes God talks to him through a duck. Moses’ small congregation is made up of his wife Venus (Danielle Brooks), young daughter (Calah Lane) and his friends Farmer X (Malcolm M. Mays) and Farmer Afrikaa (Andrel McPherson), all of whom are believers in his weird theology– that blends nonviolent black liberation aims to put a halt to white gentrification in their neighborhood and the worshipping of the Black Santa.

A surveillance team of FBI agents that include the clueless image conscious bureau chief Andy Mudd (Denis O’Hare), an ambitious and idealistic underling named Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) and the inept agent Stevie Book (Adam David Thompson), find that they have no serious terror threats on their radar in South Florida, so when agent Glack spots Moses on social media preaching about brotherhood, the lawmen scheme to make Moses the patsy they will frame as a terrorist threat.They deceive him by letting him think they support the same religious revolution he does, and offer his group money to save his tiny urban farm from being repossessed and also give him arms to fight a revolutionary war of liberation.The muddled FBI aim is to frame the wannabe revolutionist and arrest him in an FBI sting, thereby making them look like heroes protecting the national security and also giving them the opportunity for promotions.

The agents send the sleazy pedophile informer Reza (Kayyan Novak) to work out a deal with Moses, who will then meet with a phony sheikh called Nura (Pej Vahdat), someone on the FBI payroll. Whereby the sheikh gets Moses to accept fifty Kalashnikov rifles he doesn’t want.

The film is filled with many wacky scenes and witty dialogue and uncomfortable situations. Perhaps its most absurd scene has the delusional Moses show up on horseback at the FBI’s Miami HQ and try to turn in the gun dealers (the FBI operatives), hoping to collect the reward even if it leads to his own arrest.

It’s too bad it sputters in its bleak slapstick conclusion and can’t come up with an ending that makes sense.Though its heart seems to be in the right place, it fails to deliver its contentious message without seeming to go off the rails. Morris, the savvy political satirist, might have something valid to say about not trusting either the bumbling FBI or the extreme religious fanatics, but never completely makes his case.

It doesn’t help that the action seemed better suited for TV fare than a movie, and that the plot is so slight.

The Day
      Shall Come

REVIEWED ON 10/18/2019       GRADE: B-