Thursday, December 09, 2010

Four Lions (2010)

Chris Morris's debut feature is fine tuned to be both shocking and hilarious. Sometimes your sense of outrage — this is after all a light-hearted entertainment about committed British-born suicide bombers — is stifled by the urge to guffaw, and at other times there's a delay to the laughter because you have to shut your wide-gaping gob first.

V couldn't quite believe how "brave" this film was; an American equivalent (and certainly one with the same degree of basic sympathy for its hapless Islamist protagonists) is almost unthinkable. In other words, don't hang around for the Hollywood remake.

Five men from Yorkshire — oddly enough given the title — come together to bring Jihad to the Kafir. Three of them represent various blends of resentment, stupidity and naivety. Leadership of the group swings between the other two, nihilistic cockney convert Barry aka Bazza al Britani and security guard and family man Omar, who seems equally disaffected with the quiescent yet prejudiced piety of his (soon to be rendered) brother, as with the corrupt, Paki-bashing world he appears to have more than a toe-hold in.

There are several scenes (and gobbets of dialogue) which are achingly funny. The cruelties of the screenplay are directed at politicians and police just as much as they are at Doncaster's mujahideen, who, in all their different motivations, remain freakily sympathetic. The sniper sequence, occurring as the remnants of the terror cell attempt to bring carnage and mayhem to the London Marathon, is a classic piece of British comedy-satire.

If it has a weakness, it is in the character of Omar, played by Riz Ahmed, aka Riz MC (Check out his Blade Runner-inspired music video below.), which shifts between competence and clutziness, and whose family life takes the comedy into a surreal zone, which detracts from both the bite and the empathy which Morris otherwise achieves with this faux/farce-documentary-style approach to extremist conspiracy.

Grade: A-

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