FOUR LIONS (director/writer: Chris Morris; screenwriters: Jesse Armstrong/Sam Bain; cinematographer: Lol Crawley; editor: Billy Sneddon; cast: Riz Ahmed (Omar), Arsher Ali (Hassan), Nigel Lindsay (Barry), Kayvan Novak (Waj), Adeel Akhtar (Faisal), Preeya Kalidas (Sofia); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mark Herbert/Derrin Schlesinger; Drafthouse Films; 2010-UK)
“Not my cup of tea.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
TV director and co-writerChris Morris, with a rep as an acerbic satirist, creates a lackluster lighthearted slapstick comedy on inept Islamic fundamentalist terrorists going on a jihad. Morris’ co-writers are Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain. Surprisingly the film has no edge, despite its controversial subject matter. Its hapless terrorists are made throughout to look like morons waging a holy war they do not understand and can’t get it together to come up with a good plan to take down their oppressive western enemy.
The titular Four Lions are the anti-hero bad dudes. They are a disparate group of lower-middle-class residents in suburban Sheffield, who think of themselves as wannabe martyr suicide bombers – Omar (Riz Ahmed), Hassan (Arsher Ali), Barry (Nigel Lindsay) and Waj (Kayvan Novak). The only one who is not completely brain dead is the Pakistan-born Omar, the group leader, who works as a newly hired security guard and has a fun-loving nurse wife (Preeya Kalidas). Omar’s life ambition is to die as a martyr. The belligerent white Englishman Barry spouts the most radical violence for the cause, fearing if he didn’t act with such zeal he wouldn’t be taken as a serious jihadist by the others, and also because he’s jealous of the leader Omar. Hassan comes off as an inane rapper, who lacks knowledge and social skills. While Waj is confused by the mission and needs the others to tell him what to do, or else he’s completely lost–as he learned about Islamic doctrine in children’s books like “The Cat Who Went to Mecca.”Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) was another member of the terrorist cell. His dim-wtted ambition was to train crows to be suicide bombers, until he tripped over a sheep in the meadow and was considered a martyr by the group as he blew himself up.
Things come to a head when the bungler jihadists dressed in costumes (a Ninja Turtle, the Honey Monster, a cowboy, and a clown chicken), where they are hiding their explosives strapped to their bodies,plan to blow themselves up during the London marathon.
The moronic comedy is meant to humanize (not demonize) the terrorists as merely neurotic idiots, who are foolishly parroting the vile hatreds of extremists (like Barry saying the Jews invented spark plugs to control global traffic). These ‘lovable’ 3 Stooge-like terrorists are meant to be laughed at because they are so stupid. Since I believe there should be nothing too sacred that can’t be poked fun at, I had no trouble with the controversial subject matter. What I had trouble with was that the juvenile slipshod humor was light on laughs, and its superficial political take on things was just not my cup of tea. I also found it off-putting that the filmmaker thought he could get easy laughs from exploding bodies and, furthermore, that this disappointing film was so uninspiring.
REVIEWED ON 12/16/2010 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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