Four Lions: Spinal Tap for Suicide Bombers
- February 25, 2011 1:00 AM |
- By Arts Online
The dark British comedy Four Lions follows a bumbling crew of wannabe suicide bombers, portrayed by, from left, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali and Riz Ahmed. Marcus Garvey is also seen in the edgy film. (eOne Films)
Try to imagine The Three Stooges as suicide bombers. That's the volatile concept behind the prickly new British farce Four Lions.
Though the humour in Four Lions comes from a dark place, it's one of the funniest -- and at times bravest -- films made about the post-9/11 world we live in. You sense its fearlessness when the movie opens with the gang of witless Jihadists recording their video manifesto statements. Like a bunch of kids copying their favourite music videos, the militants strike a pose and threaten to turn the "kuffars" (or non-belivers) into "baked beans," all while waving replica weapons.
The leader of the group is Omar: the smartest of the bunch, he's frustrated about the treatment of Muslims and dreams of becoming a mujahedeen. Along for the ride is the incredibly vacant Waj, Islamic convert Barry and Faisal, who splits his time between bomb-making and caring for a father who hears voices and eats newspaper.
Soon enough, Omar and Waj fly down to Pakistan to meet an uncle and receive some proper training. After an incident with a bazooka, they quickly return home. To make amends, the wannabe terror cell begins planning an actual attack: a bombing of the local marathon.
Although this sounds like grim material for a comedy, first-time feature director Chris Morris walks the razor's edge between hilarity and horror. He doesn't deny his characters's murderous intentions, but he does shed a light on their contradictions. Much of the humour comes from the mix of their radical intentions and modern lifestyle.
Omar, for instance, rages against Britain's capitalism. But he also lives comfortably and tucks his son into bed at night by sharing stories about Simba's Jihad, conscripting the characters from The Lion King into his own holy war.
The rest of the merry mujahedeen are more moronic than conflicted. Take, for example, the blinded-by-hate Barry, who has this reaction when their car breaks down:
Omar: "Did you fix this, Barry?"
Barry: "Yes. I fixed it. It's the parts -- they're Jewish."
The climax of the film has the hapless crew dressed in mascot costumes, entering the city's "fun run," and aiming to blow themselves up to earn first-class tickets to heaven. The lunacy continues as police get wind of the plot, with snipers trying to decide whether a runner in a Chewbacca costume fits the description of a bear.
In an age of underwear and shoe bombers, the radical rejects portrayed in Four Lions are far from unimaginable. But the extreme idiocy on display disarms the tricky topic, allowing a frank (and funny) look at our fears. The movie works as well as it does because -- for all their murderous intent -- Chris Morris cares about his characters. He's not condoning their actions, but showing us where they went wrong; bitter and bored young men, looking to leave their mark.
Rating: 4 redacted stars out of 5.
Four Lions opens Friday in Toronto and will be released on DVD in early March.
-- Eli Glasner
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