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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.59%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 3.45%

4 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Four Lions
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by Jay Seaver

"The funniest idiot movie in years is also one of the most cutting."
5 stars

Before getting upset at the very existence of terrorist comedy "Four Lions", remember one thing: Most criminals are idiots. If they were smart, they'd likely be putting their talents to use doing something much more lucrative with much less risk of injury and/or incarceration. This applies to heinous as well as petty crimes, perhaps even more so, as using the clever ones to deliver a suicide bomb is not great use of resources. The guys stumbling through this movie are definitely not the smart ones, but they are hilariously dim.

Omar (Riz Ahmed) isn't quite so dim as the others. Of Pakistani descent and living in the north of England with his supportive wife Sophia (Preeya Kalidas) and son Mahmood (Mohammad Aqil), it's not clear why he's dedicated to jihad, but he is. He and his friend Waj (Kayvan Novak) go to Pakistan for training, which doesn't go well, and when the come back, the other members of his cell have been busy - Fessal (Adeel Akhtar) has obtained the raw materials for homemade bombs, and Barry (Nigel Lindsay) has recruited a new member to their cause, Hassan (Arsher Ali). They're about to get serious, even though they really shouldn't be crossing the street unattended, let alone working with explosives.

This leads to some dark, dark comedy, although perhaps not all that much darker than British comedies from Kind Hearts and Coronets to A Fish Called Wanda. The often-morbid slapstick complements some occasional sharp satire and points worth pondering - such as the contrast between Omar and his peaceful brother Ahmed (Wasim Zakir), who is nevertheless far more observant of the Sharia traditions. It's not completely nihilistic humor - while director Christopher Morris and his three co-writers get the audience to laugh at some terrible things, they never lose sight that what these guys are doing is as potentially tragic as it is absurd.

They don't smother the audience with well-meaning preaching, though; this is a comedy first and foremost. At one point in the movie, the would-be bombers tell the people they meet that they're in a band, and the main reason that Four Lions works is that it would probably be a successful comedy if it were actually about a handful of idiots forming a band; it's the same type of foolhardy stumbling around, doing everything wrong and yet somehow moving forward. Morris and company are telling jokes first and foremost, and they're good at it: Few if any scenes linger long enough to become tiresome, allowing them to pack a lot of these small but funny bits into the film. The movie is almost over by the time we meet the first character there to do nothing but move the plot along; almost every supporting character is given something funny to do. There's no flab to the movie. The filmmakers are also very good at playing one type of fool off another, creating a veritable symphony of imbecilic words and activity.

The cast hits those various types of fool very well indeed. Riz Ahmed's Omar is the one just smart enough to realize that he's surrounded by idiots though not enough to realize that he's horribly misguided as well. He makes for a terrific straight man as well as a funny verbal stumbler, going from funny impatience to absurdity and back again. Kayvan Novak plays his deeply stupid (to the effect that he may be special-needs) sidekick, and it's an excellently realized piece of comic work; Novak spits out nonsense with confidence. Arsher Ali's Hassan is the young and inexperienced one, wanting to be edgy and cool but not having the brains to really think what he's doing. Adeel Akhtar plays the stoner-type idiot, slow on the uptake and excellent at making a scene a little more surreal or provoking funny anger from another character. That would generally be Nigel Lindsay as Barry, the Caucasian convert who is aggressively dumb and loudmouthed (and, as is often the case in real life, the most vociferous and unyielding). He's a veritable fountain of stupid anger, and Lindsay does very well to keep him feeling like a buffoon versus a truly effective villain.

Making an idiot movie isn't as easy as it looks; there's a fine line between someone being hilariously, exaggeratedly dim and so frustratingly stupid that one wonders how he remembers how to get up in the morning. Add that to subject matter which, 90% of the time, isn't really funny, and you've got an extremely unlikely recipe for comedy. But "Four Lions" is hilarious, making a point with mockery where a more measured approach might not succeed.

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originally posted: 11/05/10 05:24:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/15/15 john 1 1 stars
8/24/13 Ionicera kind of inconsistant in tone but lots of dark humor moments throughout 4 stars
11/10/10 mistermanager I really wanna see this! 5 stars
11/08/10 Dorothy Rozdilsky would watch again 4 stars
11/06/10 plop 5 5 stars
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  05-Nov-2010 (R)
  DVD: 08-Mar-2011

  07-May-2010 (15)

  26-Aug-2010 (M)
  DVD: 08-Mar-2011

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Chris Morris

Written by
  Chris Morris
  Jesse Armstrong
  Sam Bain

  Riz Ahmed
  Arsher Ali
  Nigel Lindsay
  Kayvan Novak

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