Four Lions

Four Lions

Four Lions

directed by Chris Morris

starring Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar

Film4

It took 20 years for Hogan’s Heroes to find humor in WWII. Vietnam became funny right about the time the war ended and M.A.S.H. hit the screen, and now Chris Morris’s Four Lions brings slapstick to the War on Terror, long before it’s close to ending.

In tolerant London, Omar (Ahmed) guards a shopping mall, tells his son bedtime stories, and plots Jihad. His buddies dream of major infrastructure damage, but none of them seem capable of defragging a hard drive without cutting themselves. Brash Barry (Lindsay) dresses in a turban and behaves like a skinhead, Fessel (Akhtar) has the imagination of a cantaloupe, and Waj (Novak) can be talked into anything, including peeing into his own mouth. As he says, “It’s not that hard once you get the angle right.” Omar and Waj take a trip to a Pakistani training camp but leave in disgrace after they have trouble finding the business end of a Stinger missile. Back in London, Barry suggest blowing up a mosque hoping to raise a revolt, perhaps against his own general stupidity. Omar has a better idea — blow up the “buff skags” running in a charity marathon.

These guys are evil, but their grades won’t get them into mastermind class. The only mastermind here is the story. Completely plausible yet completely Monty Python, these four London lads are The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, Airplane!, and Lawrence of Arabia rolled into one. Setups and payoff flow effortlessly, each man is a cleanly delineated human, and you never think “that could never happen.” The closest thing to a non-sequitur is Omar’s wife Sophia (Preeya Kalidas). She never seems upset he’s set on suicide; either she doesn’t believe him or she sees it as a reasonable career choice.

There’s only one flaw in this otherwise fine film — it’s often hard to decipher the Brit accents. The Urdu stuff has subtitles and shows how poetically you can curse in a Middle Eastern language, but you’re on your own for the Brixton stuff. Yeah, these guys kill people, and while it’s a serious crime, it’s still funny in that deep dark way good comedy so often requires. This is a gem of a movie, and it’s the sort of thing that you look for in an art house showing of an indie film.

Four Lions: www.fourlionsthemovie.com

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