Surely to be one of the more controversial movies of the year, especially in this Tea Party-led society we suddenly live in, Four Lions is about four British Muslims who, disillusioned with the western world, decide they're going to wage jihad against their country. In other words, they're going to blow some sh*t up. Oh, and it's a comedy.
In Four Lions, Omar (Riz Ahmed) convinces his friends Waj (Kayvan Novak), Barry (Nigel Lindsay) and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) to conspire together to develop bombs - and a plan - to blow up something. Anything. Unfortunately for Omar, Waj is a complete and utter moron, Barry is a white convert simply looking to channel his nihilism and Faisal is always coming up with excuses to delay the jihad another day or week or two.
The official synopsis for Four Lions describes the movie as "a funny, thrilling comedy that illuminates modern jihadism through the prism of farce. It understands jihadists as human beings. And it understands human beings as innately ridiculous." In many ways, it lives up to those lofty expectations. It is indeed a farce, but it isn't as smart or as a witty to make it a satire. It's goofy and over-the-top and deliciously absurd, but to say audiences will get anything more out of it than that would be taking things too far.
But, from a purely entertainment perspective, Four Lions delivers more often than not.
Director Chris Morris has drawn together a talented cast for his project, based on a screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Simon Blackwell. Ahmed is particularly good in the lead, delivering a character that is at once determined, frantic and slightly off his rocker. The rest, especially Novak, are pretty funny in their own rights.
The movie itself isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but instead is consistently pleasing. Still, it has a few moments that are priceless (two snipers arguing over whether a wookie is a bear or not, after gunning one down, comes to mind).
Four Lions isn't perfect, but it gets better as it goes along. The performances by the four lead actors make the movie work more often than not, so if you're looking for something just a little different - and a little controversial - look no further than Four Lions, now in theaters.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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