Four Lions (2010) dir. Chris Morris
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay
By Alan Bacchus
‘Four Lions’ positions itself to be the ‘In the Loop’ of this year’s festival, a jet black British comedy about four hapless wannabe Islamic terrorists who have declared their own personal Jihad. Director Morris throws caution in the wind with the biggest set of cinematic balls this side of Werner Herzog. Miraculously Morris manages to make terrorism hilarious.
Omar (Riz Ahmed) is a British Muslim, living in conspicuously unnamed London. He’s disillusioned with the treatment of Muslims around the world and thus desires to join Al Queda. He joins up with a three other likeminded stooges to plot their own act of terrorism at home. The hapless foursome includes a blue collar Joe and convert to Islam, Barry (Nigel Lindsay), Waj (Kayvan Novak) is a complete dufus who lets Omar do the thinking for him and Faisal who is even more hapless and clumsy than Waj.
After a training mission in Afghanistan goes wrong - Omar accidentally firing an RPG backwards into their own desert encampment - Omar and Waj return home to wage war.. Their target is a city marathon whereby they intend to dress up as costumed clowns with bombs hidden under their clothes. But as the clock ticks down second thoughts about their action conflict with the patriotic fervour.
The similarities to ‘In the Loop’ go even beyond the tone and subject matter. Both are productions of Channel Four film in the UK and Chris Morris, the director, comes from the Armando Iannucci think tank of comedy, having worked with he and Steve Coogan on the BBC2’s ’The Day Today.’
The film scores big points for its sheer audacity, the stuff of great black comedies, the ability to skewer what’s sacred and delicate. Morris conducts his farce with the same rhythm in the tradition of the great Brit-coms. Jokes are of the deadpan and slapstick variety in the tradition of the cinematic idiocy of say, ‘Spinal Tap’.
“Four Lions” unfortunately is missing some of the cinematic quality of “In the Loop”, often feeling contained and closed off like a television series rather than a larger canvas of a feature film. As well, the film suffers from a sameness in the some of the characters. Although the four actors have the right type of deadpan comedic timing and charm, there’s little to differentiate between Waj, Barry and Faisal with the jokes are interchangeable within these three characters.
But for sheer audacity and its tone of irresponsible comic nihlism ‘Four Lions’ is a whole lot of fun.