Review: Four Lions
The Pitch: Carry On Suicide Bombing.
The Review: Chris Morris is a genius. (I’d just like to say at this point, “Welcome to fair and unbiased movie reviews,” but of course I can’t.) For me, The Day Today and Brasseye were two of the finest works of comedy of the Nineties, but Morris’ most prominent role of the last decade, other than a Brasseye special, was being slightly odd in a TV sitcom. So it’s good to have the real Chris Morris back. And he’s brought with him a topic as sure to ignite passions and cause controversy as his Brasseye paedophile special.
So the adverse reaction and negative publicity shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. What does seem to be coming as a surprise to some is that this movie isn’t attempting to make fun of suicide bombing, or gain laughs at the expense of the victims. There are obvious parallels with Monty Python’s Life of Brian in the provocative use of theme, and also in some of the misguided reaction that this can generate. In the same way that Brian didn’t attempt to mock Christianity, the target here is stupid people, not Islam itself, and the main character Omar is clearly shown as being at odds with his more scholarly brother. What some people may struggle with is that Omar has a normal, happy life with a family who support his aspirations, including another more dim-witted brother (excellently portrayed by Facejacker’s Kayvan Novak).
But hey, blowing people up is funny, right? Crucially, we are only asked to laugh at the prospect of the terrorists blowing themselves up, never at the actual act of terrorism itself. If anything, where that line gets crossed is in the actions of the police, where in the most dangerous satirical moments we are expected to laugh at some casual incompetence that uncomfortably recalls the Jean Charles de Menezes type of incompetence. In the British tradition, though, some of the humour here is very dark, but that doesn’t make it any less funny – it just test the levels of tolerance in the audience as to whether they can separate the humour from the subject matter.
What leaves this short of being a true classic in the end is the quality of the jokes. Compared to Brian, or other works from Morris’ contemporaries such as In The Loop, this does fall (just) short in terms of laughs. It also provokes thoughts, but just occasionally only provokes where it could have followed through to be that tiny bit more satirical. But have no doubt that this is laugh out loud funny, but also serves as an excellent jumping-off point for an honest debate about why people feel this kind of calling, and in that respect it recalls the disenfranchisement of the young that Fight Club captured so perfectly more than anything else.
Why see it at the cinema: If enough of us go, we could make this into the next The Full Monty. Glory awaits…
The Score: 8/10