Dave White
Four Lions Review

Dave's Rating:

5.0

Pitch-black comedy of errors.

Who's In It: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar, Julia Davis

The Basics: A band of British Muslim terrorists, all of them committed to jihad but mostly unsure about how to go about martyring themselves properly, collectively decide to suicide-bomb the London Marathon. To that end they go to a Pakistan training camp where they wind up accidentally wreaking havoc; they communicate via the texting feature of a children's computer game, they compare holy war to the plot of The Lion King and they argue over what to call the one who mistakenly blows himself up too soon: a martyr or a jalfrezi? (Definition: a thick-sauced meat and vegetable curry).

What's The Deal:The answer to the question "What would it be like if the Three Stooges were terrorists?" is that they'd still be the bumbling fools you know and love and also that they'd cause a lot of irreparable damage to people who got in their way. And if that sounds like too much to deal with then this isn't the comedy for you. Writer-director Chris Morris walks that razor-fine line separating comedy and tragedy by mocking terrorists without mocking the horrors of terrorism itself. And he accomplishes this by refusing to treat his subjects like they're fearsomely unknowable monsters. By staying firmly on the side of human reality he reminds you that human beings are laughable thanks to their excesses, their idiocy and their futile grasp for immortality. If that sounds like your kind of comedy then you'll be rewarded with the most brutally funny comedy of the year.

Who Is Chris Morris? U.K. audiences already know him as the man behind the cult TV series Brass Eye and he's already come under fire in England for an episode of that program that mocked that country's recent national hysteria over pedophilia. (Specifically he created a ridiculous pedophile character who disguised himself as a moving building.) So it's not like he's a stranger to the kind of smart comedy that eviscerates common wisdom about the topics being satirizing. If you had to place in him a comedy camp it would be alongside Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan and Sacha Baron Cohen. He'd be the one hiding in the background attempting not to become a household name.

Most Unsettling Thing About It: Leader Omar (Riz Ahmed), the least delusional and smartest of the men on this mission, is seen joking with his wife about fundamentalist attitudes toward women and doting on his young son. But then that gentle warmth turns warped as they gather to discuss about how great it's going to be when dad martyrs himself. Come for the jagged, blackened comedy, stay for the disturbing moments of family togetherness.

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