“ Genre: Comedy / Theatrical Release: 2010 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Actors: Riz Ahmed, Adeel Akhtar, Alex MacQueen, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali ... / DVD released 2010-09-06 at Elevation Sales / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Colour, PAL, Widescreen „
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This is probably one of the most controversial movies I will review but it is also one of my favourite comedies of all time and for many good reasons which I will go in to in more detail below.
This is a comedy about a group of British Muslims who set out to become suicide bombers however they are also quite incompetent and create many obstacles in their path to committing their act of terror on the world.
Kayvan Novak - Waj
Nigel Lindsay - Barry
Riz Ahmed - Omar
Adeel Akhtar - Faisal
Preeya Kalidas - Sofia
So when people initially here the plot of this movie they always wonder how can it possibly be a comedy. A group of muslims wanting to kill innocent people as part of their terrorist act. Well that is where the props goes to Christopher Morris as the writer and director as he has created a masterpiece.
In terms of the cast it is a strong showing with Riz Ahmed having since moved to Hollywood, Kavyan Novak of course being the creater of Fonejacker and Facejacker, Nigel Lindsay appearing in the Westend version of Shrek and Preeya Kalidas having been in Eastenders. All the characters play off eachother so well and even know I am struggling to explain why this is such a great comedy.
I guess one of the reasons I loved this was the excellent dialogue. Specifically Barry played an instrumental role with his crazy ideas of bombing the mosque and his crazy justification for this and Waj being able to be manipulated in to thinking being a suicide bomber is like skipping the queue at Alton Towers and getting on the Rubber Dingy Rapids ride.
To sum up even after this review I am sure you will be wondering how on earth this is supposed to be funny but all I ask is for you watch this and you will fully understand why this has received rave reviews and its 7.2 rating on IMDB which is excellent for a comedy. I have no doubt that many people against this movie gave this a '1' rating on IMDB and stopped this from getting closer to the 8 rating that it deserved. Personally I am going to give this a 5 stars as I found it truly brilliant.
Chris Morris has always had that rare ability to make you laugh and think. His inspired radio/TV comedy The Day Today highlighted the style-over-substance approach to the news by modern media; his Daily Mail-baiting Brass Eye sent up investigative journalism and was thought-provoking, funny and offensive in equal measure. Four Lions is Morris' attempt at transferring his controversial comedy style to the big screen and is likely to be just as divisive.
It tells the tale of five young Sheffield Muslims who want to launch their own Jihad and commit a suicide bombing that will rock Britain and further the Muslim cause. Unfortunately, whilst their commitment cannot be doubted, their suitability for the role of terrorist is somewhat questionable.
In the hands of most film-makers, this would result in an opportunity to make slapstick, comedy spoof featuring "hilarious" stereotypical Muslims and buffoon British cops chasing them. Morrison the other hand uses more subtle comedy to make lots of points about the society in which we live and to expose aspects of modern culture (Western and Muslim) which are ludicrous.
Morris is at pains to paint these four would-be martyrs (and their families who are aware of and support their actions) as ordinary people leading ordinary lives - the sort of person that you might pass in the street every day. This is important, because it makes the serious point that anyone you see regardless of colour or religion could be a terrorist; yet the media has led us to demonise only small sections of society. Crucially, by way of balance, he also introduces characters who publicly refuse to acknowledge that any Muslims have become radicalised, for fear of being labelled "racist".
In this way, Morris points out two very different and contradictory messages which are coming through to the general populace via the media. On the one hand, the news conditions us to think that "all Muslims are terrorists", because 99% of the time when we see them, it is in the context of a report of a terrorist act. On the other hand, our politicians and religious leaders constantly tell us that Muslims are entirely peaceful and law-abiding. Four Lions holds up these contradictory ideas for scrutiny and points out how absurd and out of touch with reality both actually are.
Lest this is starting to sound a little heavy, it's probably time to point out that this is a comedy; a dark one certainly, but a comedy nevertheless. Yes, Morris is hoping to make you think, but he is using the medium of laughter to point out these absurdities. Thankfully Four Lions succeeds in this too. Providing you understand where it is coming from, it is a film that will make you laugh a lot.
As with most Morris efforts, Four Lions is essentially a satire. Satire and religion always sit uncomfortably and get people wound up (often without them having any direct experience of the thing they are getting wound up about!). However, it's important to realise that Four Lions is not having a go at Islam or indeed any religious beliefs. Instead, it is deriding people who do things in the name of religion without having a clue what that religion really says; or the way logic and common sense can fly out of the window where religion is concerned and otherwise intelligent people believe in and do stupid things, purely because they have managed to twist their religious beliefs into saying what they want them to say.
This is clearly demonstrated through the characters in Four Lions who are not just incompetent terrorists, but incompetent human beings. One is incredibly stupid and doesn't understand anything he is told to believe, but believes it anyway because he is told he should. One is in the group because he is young and impressionable and has been led astray by vague romantic images of "martyrdom", whilst one just endlessly spouts slogans and radical rhetoric without ever coming close to understanding their meaning.
It's via these characters that much of the humour flows. The banter, arguments and endless misunderstandings between them are priceless, making you laugh whilst also raising some serious points. Some of the ideas they have for acts of terrorism show how clueless they are, both about terrorism and their own religion, whilst there are some sublime moments of surreal comedy (exploding crows, discussions about whether a wookiee and a honey monster are bears). Occasionally some of the humour is a little edgy and close to the knuckle, possibly even borderline offensive but if you stop and think about it you will see it's not religion that is the target, but the stupidity of people.
Since the film is potentially offensive, it was crucial to get the casting spot on. Riz Ahmed as Omar, the leader of the erstwhile terrorist cell is suitably smooth and charismatic and it's easy to see why people might be prepared to follow him into death. As the only vaguely competent member of the group, he perhaps has less of a comedy role, but is an essential character in showing how one strong person can bend others to his will by sheer force of personality.
Kayvan Novak is superb as Waj who could never be mistaken for the brains of the outfit. Much of Waj's comedy stems from the fact that he regularly has no idea what is going on or what he is supposed to believe and why; yet his childlike manner, simplistic outlook and trusting manner make him endearingly stupid.
Nigel Lindsay is similarly superb as the slogan spouting Muslim convert, Barry. Barry is the Muslim equivalent of the old Trotskyists of the 1980s, shouting meaningless slogans and ideas to "prove" his commitment to the cause. As a convert to Islam, he is also used to point out that people who have converted to a faith are often far more rabid in defending it that those brought up with it. Barry is an idiot, certainly, but he is a dangerous idiot.
There was a danger that these various characters could have drifted into lazy stereotype, but despite the fact that they are comedy archetypes (the thick one, the suave one, the vain one and the loud one), they work very well. As a group, the banter and bickering is very funny and results in many laugh out loud moments; whilst as individuals, they are all sympathetic human beings. You lose sight of the fact that they are "terrorists" and start to like them for who they are.
Sadly, funny though Four Lions is, the humour and pace cant' be sustained. Even though it comes in at a svelte 97 minutes, you still feel that Four Lions is a touch too long. Towards the end, the clever humour gets lost and the end sequences play out like a darker Blues Brothers and things rapidly descend into farce. Although Four Lions works reasonably well as a film, you can't help feel that it might work better on Morris' traditional medium of TV. At least it has the courage of its convictions with a brave ending that has the capability to surprise and shock.
Four Lions is not going to be to everyone's tastes and it will offend as much as it delights. It can be uncomfortable to watch and you find yourself feeling a little guilty laughing at some of the humour. However, do yourself a favour and at least make up your own mind about it having watched it. Don't be like the idiotic central characters and condemn it on the basis of hearsay, misunderstandings and twisted truths.
Director: Chris Morris
Running time: approx. 97 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
Writer/director of Four Lions, Chris Morris, has never been one to shy away from controversy. The dark comedy, about five British Muslims clumsily planning a terrorist attack, was talked about long before release, leading to debate months in advance due to its potentially offensive themes. Could it have been worth such hype?
For me, the answer is a definite 'yes'. This is because of the audacity of Brass Eye creator Morris even attempting to make such controversial material comical, for trying something that hasn't been done before and for making his debut feature so downright hilarious.
It's rare to see a smart comedy that also happens to be packing so many belly laughs. There aren't many whip-smart one-liners here, as Four Lions prefers to stick to the comedy of the absurd - most of the humour comes from the collective stupidity of the would-be terrorists, especially Adeel Akhtar's Fessal. There's also a fair bit of slapstick, albeit very dark - one incident, Fessal's attempt to turn his pet crow into a suicide bomber, has disastrous results.
Still, the underlying themes keep the film from ever descending into mindless Anchorman-style laughs. Questions of identity and race are raised throughout, highlighted none-more prominently in main protagonist Omar's (Riz Ahmed) relationship with his devout Muslim brother. Those inevitable critics of Four Lions' 'bad taste' (and there will be some) simply need to look past its farcical comedy style to see it has a rather intelligent core.
The main cast boasts not one weak link, with the five leads doing some truly magnificent work. As straight-man Omar, rising star Riz Ahmed is the man keeping his idiotic team together, including Arsher Ali's Toploader-loving Hassan and Nigel Lindsay's extremist Muslim convert Barry. Kayvan Novak, best known as TV's Fonejacker, gets the most laughs as Waj, and rightly so - his character is ludicrously stupid and Novak nails each line with dead-headed precision. We still care for them all, though, brainless or not, and that is one of the reasons Four Lions works so well. We warm to the characters for the bumbling fools that they are.
Like so many comedies out there, the film is in search of an ending to satisfyingly tie it up; no matter, it's all about the build-up anyway. There are some moments here that will go down in comedy history and despite the odd instance where things get serious, the humour is what you'll remember Four Lions for.
Next to A Town Called Panic, this was the funniest film of 2010. It's not politically correct, it's not at all perfect and some of the themes are unsettling to be seen present in what could often be considered a slapstick comedy, but this is still hilarious and intelligent stuff.
Having been struggling to find more than a handful of funny US comedy titles this year, I decided to see what Britain had produced. I was pleasantly surprised to find that unlike 2009, there was a number of decent films on offer. The one which stuck out the most was controversial Chris Morris comedy about 5 British wannabe jihadists.
The film is based in Sheffield and as a Sheffielder myself, it's always nice to see some of the locations, even if it is in a terrorist flick! It used to be common place to ridicule the enemy in comedy films but these days it would seem that everyone is on tender hooks and doesn't venture into these zones either through fear of offending victim's relatives or the muslim population that are not terrorists or maybe even the terrorists themselves, either way it's a breath of fresh air to watch this film which has a good laugh at just about everyone and is made in such a way that you actually warm to the motley bunch of terrorists, most probably because their characters create a film full of laughter for you with either their hilarious banter, constant mistakes or general cluelessness.
The film is mostly in English with a couple of parts in Urdu and this is always subtitled and is 99% of the time Omar going on a crazy hillarious rant, there are so many parts of this film that will you have in laughter that it's a really great film to watch to put you in a good mood, some of the quotes will be a struggle to get out of your head though!
I can't say that any of the cast were known to me prior to the film although after hunting around IMDB a few of their appearance did ring a bell. In the case of plot, script and the actors chosen not only as the main 5 characters but also people with bit-part appearances, the director seems to have got it spot on.
This wonderful film follows the skewed path taken by four, later five, British jihadists intent on the ultimate sacrifice of suicide bombing. The subject is a very sensitive one, especially in light of the recent 7/7 inquest, but it readily ridicules and portrays the futility of blinkered extremism. This is chiefly achieved through the assemblage of a real motley crew of misguided 'martyrs'. Maybe their absolute stupidity begs the question 'do they really know what they are fighting for, or raging against?' This is a pertinent question as peer pressure and euphoria are powerful magnets for the stupid and gullible.
King of the Bungle
The least stupid lion, Omar, is the leader of the pride. By day he is a security guard, and by night a wannabe Mushahadeen. Covert meetings are held in a Sheffield semi, with remaining lions Barry, Faisal, and Waj. Barry, a white Muslim, is the only other lion to have aspirations of leadership and his power struggle with Omar is constantly entertaining. For instance, his argument for assuming leadership is his notion that he is "the most Al-Qaeda one here"! He is instantly humorous, helped by a broad cockney accent that sits somewhere between Charlie Slater and Terry Venables. Faisal and Waj must be the thickest pair of morons ever committed to celluloid, hanging lemming-like on Omar and Barry's every word. To give you an idea of Waj's mental capacity, he genuinely thinks that chickens are 'rabbits with wings'. From this early assessment one senses that plans can only go awry!
Omar and Waj spend a very brief sojourn in a Pakistan training camp due to their,hilarious, highly conspicuous idiocy. Back home Barry doesn't do much to help the cause by enlisting another lion, Hassan, whose public protest impresses him at a 'Progress and Moderation' conference (this latest recruit makes the title a misnomer as there are now effectively five 'lions'). There are some priceless scenes, one of which is when Barry quizzes Faisal over his stash of liquid peroxide. His 'explanation' of making many trips, under different physical and voiced disguises is absolute comedy gold. Omar's exasperation also causes no shortage of belly laughs. He frequently breaks into streams of expletive-ridden Urdu,which is subtitled for the viewer but incomprehensible to Barry. The scene where a livid Omar acts out his exasperation using his hand to mime a mobile phone is followed by a pregnant pause, only for Waj to utter in all seriousness:
"Who where that on't phone"?
Hilarious explosive experiments involving themselves and crows combine to produce an idiot's guide to Brainiac: Science Abuse. When you add Barry's warped logic ( 'let's blow up a mosque and radicalise all Muslims'), his battered, multi-coloured Citroen, and a beguiling array of fancy dress costumes, then there is enough in the melting pot for the comedy to almost write itself.
Many scenes are set in real time thus lending a great ring of authenticity. The idiocy of Waj and Faisal would just seem too ridiculous in most films, but here you are convinced that they really are that stupid. More tellingly, you are convinced that there are people in real life that stupid; I have certainly seen the evidence! A lot of other detail is meticulously observed, such as turns of phrase and the often laughable names assigned to Pakistani-run takeaways, such as Kebabish and Chicken Cottage (I do actually know of a Kebabish near to where I live).
Perhaps one of the most chilling and unsettling aspects of the film is the way that Omar's wife, Sofia, and little boy see his suicide mission as perfectly normal and commendable. Even his son's bedtime story is served up as a twisted version of the Lion King (which maybe influenced the film's title?), with Simba cast 'heroically' as the jihadist warrior. A small qualm, for me, here is that there could have been more time and serious emphasis given to Omar's loving domestic life to counter-balance and anchor the interminable daftness of the film. This may have invoked more viewers to ponder the reasoning, and realise the full extent, of his suicidal sacrifice.
Maybe this blinkered dogma is best evidenced when Waj complains to Omar about Barry's questionable 'correctional' tactics of making him drink his own urine. Omar is outraged and retorts:
" I may ask you to blow yourself up, but I would never ask you to piss in your own mouth"!
Although this is played with a straight bat as a joke, you sense that there is more than a grain of truth in it.
This further evidences the uneasy dichotomy between relatively minor, albeit distasteful, taboos in etiquette and the act of killing oneself, which is seen as perfectly noble and normal.
From a moral viewpoint we are, thankfully, shown the disapproval of the Lions' plan by devout Muslims. This is conveyed by Omar's cousin, who implores him to cancel his plans and join him in his Koran study group. Needless to say this is all in vain as Omar is disdainful of Islamic scholars and texts.
Funny and not-so-funny
Because we get to know the characters and laugh with and at them, I can't help but feel some sympathy and affinity with them, if not with their mission. Despite their random looniness, the sense of solidarity and love between the brothers is a universal trait that is not easily overlooked whatever their horrible intentions may be.
The film does tread a tricky tightrope with some very real and contentious issues. I don't think that it can be classed as racist because three white characters, Matt (Omar's boss), Alice (their neighbour) and,of course, Barry are hardly portrayed as the sharpest knives in the box. Even the Special Branch negotiator, briefly cameoed by Benedict Cumberbatch, is rendered somewhat inept and ineffectual.
Undoubtedly the most sinister undercurrent is the hypothetical, albeit very real, threat posed by terrorist cells, especially more competent ones. With heightened terror alerts in place, as well as the aforementioned ongoing 7/7 inquest, Four Lions runs constantly close to the bone. From this point of view the film is quite thought-provoking, throwing up endless paradoxes. We almost feel that we would like to befriend these guys, but certainly not what they stand for.
Despite the belly laughs we are never too far away from tangible reminders of terrorism's intent and potential. The fact that the Lions' ultimate target becomes the London Marathon immediately draws a sporting parallel with that same city's staging of the 2012 Olympics. Maybe this is dropped in as a subtle, prescient warning amid the knockabout humour. Let's hope that this is not an ironic foreshadowing of things to come.
Just a word about the extra features. It's not often I take much notice of such add-ons but the two short films on this DVD made me feel bewildered and alienated. I am sure that they are intended to improve understanding of Islamic culture but only succeed in potentially widening the divide and creating total separation. The Lost Boys film follows a gang of young Muslims in the East Lancashire town of Nelson. It purportedly explores their relationship with the local gora/gori (white lads and girls). It starts with one lad denouncing whites and the police as antagonisers and discriminators. I have no doubt that this reprehensible activity does exist, but the lads do not help matters with their tales of woe by then driving round the town shouting, swearing and gesturing at random white people, completely unprovoked. Sorry, but it takes two to tango;these particular lads are just as much perpetrators as they are victims, and as guilty as anyone of inciting racial unrest. To me the good intentions of Lost Boys spectacularly backfire; if ever the BNP needed a short propaganda film, then here it is.
The other 'film' is a rather turgid monologue by Mo Ali, a white Muslim, arrested under the terrorism act. He has some interesting points to make but is given too free a reign, so much so that his repetitive monologue descends into a turbo-charged stream of consciousness, like listening to Ulysses on speed. I wouldn't dignify either of these shorts as 'films' as such, but come across instead as rambling, badly camcordered accounts by ineloquent and embittered members of society. The first one, in particular, does far more harm than good.
It would be wrong to mark down the film for the sake of a couple of pitiful peripherals, which frankly, and hopefully, will remain largely unwatched. I would heartily recommend Four Lions. It is a very funny film with serious overtones, not least in the way it manages to humanise five, not four, terrorists whose plan it is to kill the very people they are, unwittingly, entertaining. I suppose that this just shows comedy's power to diffuse any subject or situation, as well as its abject refusal to recognise boundaries.
Hassan/ Arsher Ali
Faisal/ Adeel Akhtar
Negotiator/ Benedict Cumberbatch
Alice/ Julia Davis
Sofia/ Preeya Kalides
Ahmed/ Wasim Zakir
Mahmood/ Mohammed Aqil
So, just five years from 7/7 and is it too early for a comedy about British Muslim suicide bombers? Well not for Chris Morris, Four Lions his riposte to those callous but expected attacks, and appropriately titled film in World Cup year, Morris never missing a trick. After he and Armando Iannuci were effectively bullied off TV by nervy lawyers and commissioning editors for being too clever and cutting on fellow celebrities with their cruel cerebral comedy, the brilliant Brass Eye and The Day Today to name but two shows (less said about Nathan Barley as possible Chris), both turned to mainstream movies to express their unique and needed talents.
Whereas Iannuci's enjoyable 'In the Loop', the film of the TV series 'The Thick of It', targeted a very middle-class and knowing cinema audience, Morris used the scattergun approach to hit a much wider commercial target with this not as smart but still very funny effort, more Shaun of the Dead than Annie Hall. It doesn't have the clever in-jokes and snarling edge as some of his comedy but it's still subtly edgy and risqué.
It's a deliciously silly send up of the type of religious morons that contemplate blowing themselves and others up thinking they will somehow please their righteous God and pass into paradise with their disgusting twisted thinking. Contrary to common belief most successful suicide bombers are not that smart (clearly), hence Morris's characterization here, guys easily manipulated by much smarter people to do an outrageous act, normally to make some one else money or status. One Palestinian woman blew herself up purely out of shame because she had had an affair in her community. The man she had an affair with didn't blow himself up.
Waj: We'll blow something up.
Omar: What we gonna blow up Waj?
Nigel Lindsay ... Barry
Kayvan Novak ... Waj
Riz Ahmed ... Omar
Preeya Kalidas ... Sophia
Julia Davis ... Alice
Craig Parkinson ... Matt
Arsher Ali ... Hassan
Benedict Cumberbatch ... Ed
White Muslim convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay) is the head of the Tinsley, South Yorkshire branch of Jihad, Omar (Riz Ahmed), Waj (Kayvan Novak) and Hussan (Arsher Ali) his foot soldiers, all waiting for their call to arms from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Barry's chosen form of communication with Bin Laden being the 'Puffin Party website'.
We join the dunderheads filming their suicide videos in Barry's front room, and making a right mess of it (I nearly said pig's ear. Doh!). They have yet to pick a target or make any explosives, but already thinking enough to get them twenty years in a British prison under the current oppression of Islam here.
Barry wants to blow up the Sheffield mosque, his thinking being to enrage the local Islamic youth into action against the Infidel. Omar, the brightest of the bunch of misfits, is concerned the mission will fail with this level of idiocy going on. With a beautiful wife (Preeya Kalidas), lovely kid (Omid Kandar) and family home, Omar has everything to live for, his wife fully aware of his plans but not remotely upset about it for some reason. Waj and Hassan are complete idiots and will go along with anything, if just for the camaraderie.
When the Tinsely warriors get the coded call to go to the Afghan training camp only Waz and Omar get to make the trip, but soon back with their tail between their legs after a 'rocket launcher incident'. Because of this mishap it's decided to hasten their attack and after dismissing the internet as a possible target it's decided the London Marathon will be the scene of their martyrdom, cartoon character mascots the disguise to cover the bomb belts to kill the Kufar, the non believers. But it's not going well on the covert explosive side, Hussan buying the entire batch of ammonia nitrate from the same corner shop whilst Waj thinks they are being followed by MI5 in a milk float! A crow and a microwave have already been blown to pieces. The question now is how on earth these four plonkers going to carry this off?
Police Inspector: You're gonna die in that gear lads
Omar: More than likely, but it's for a good cause
The single word of Funny' is splashed all over the DVD dust cover, quoted from every broadsheet and film magazine you can mention, only one word needed to describe this enjoyable farce, a relief to those who thought this would be far too serious and taboo and so uncomfortably to laugh at. Morris walks a tightrope to try not to offend British-Pakistani and Islam but maintains the core comedy line that the act of blowing yourself up for a God is absurd. Mocking the suicide video and the planning for the attacks are surprisingly funny moments here and at no time do you feel Morris is offending anyone involved in 7/7. What he is trying to do is not make the film too intelligent and satirical because then he is having a political opinion on Islam's connections with violence and you all know where that can lead. To make the bombers complete idiots means it's they and not the teachings of Islam that tell them to blow innocent people up. Like Oliver Stone, sometimes you have to pull back some to get your film made and so seen by a wider audience. The comedy acting is good and the guy's perfect second generation British Pakistani patois doubles the comedy value.
To be fair British Muslims are not very popular right now and so its films like this that helps calm the community tensions by both of us laughing at the bad guys in both of our communities, and with positive reports this film went down very well in places like Luton and Bradford it seems justified. Yes it plays on some stereotypes to get laughs but they are not racist or bigoted in any way and the film skillfully plotted not to knowingly offend. In fact there are lot of in-jokes only the Pakistanis would get and most definitely some Peter Kay homage here from Morris. I'm slightly irritated that Morris copped out a little by making the chief agitator and suicide bomber a white Muslim convert, played brilliantly by Nigel Lindsay, but I suppose that was because it was a funnier character over any real religious or political reasons to cast it that way. Terry 'Phonejacker' Tibbs (Kayvan Novak) is also fun as the retarded Waj.
According to Christopher Morris, Nigel's jihadist group leader character was based on a former BNP member who in an attempt to out-knowledge the Asian youths he regularly assaulted, studied the Qur'an and as a result "accidentally converted himself" and became a Muslim. Only Chris Morris could come up with that. I didn't quite buy into Omar's character where his attractive wife is fully aware of the plan and not remotely bothered but it does provide an extra dimension to the film. Why someone with a comfortable western wife and lifestyle like that consider throwing it all away is beyond me? Maybe this was Morris saying to the smarter British Muslims out there that you can do something in the community to stop this mayhem by speaking out earlier. Now we are out of Iraq and all but out of Afghanistan there should be no reason to be still planning attacks. Go out and rent his now as it's the funniest film of the year so far although, alas, Hugh Grant doesn't get blown up at the end. .
Omar: Barry, shut up, mate! 'Cause I tell ya, your little brain cell might go off now and again, but if you hands even go to move, if you try to set up the Islamic State of Tinsley again, going to university lectures, opening your big mouth, buying some more silver nitrate from Amazon... I'm gonna rip your plugs out!
Imdb.com scores it 7.6 -10 (5,143 votes)
Rottontomatos.com 88% approval rate
= = = = Special Features = = = =
***Easter Egg Alert***
In the deleted scenes menu wait until the seagull appears and then press enter. This will take you to a further menu featuring more bonus materials.
The deleted scenes in question
An interesting if comical interview sees an unknown interviewer chat with a genuine white jihadi, who is also not that bright and somewhat comical.
Here a small voxpox piece looks at the wider problems in the working-class British Pakistani communities and how unemployed bored young males not allowed to drink or smoke hammer the weed instead. Here we see them perform for the camera to fore fill those stereotypes, making lewd comments about white people in their small northern town from the comfort and safety of their blacked out car windows. They are forced to marry at a young age, usually to their first or second cousins, their lives are all about family pride and dowries over any love and affection.
Two suicide bombers walk into a bar.
If jokes about suicide bombers leave you cold, then this isn't the film for you. Chris Morris, he of the Channel 4 Paedogeddon scandal, ruffles Daily Mail feathers further in this irreverent look at the War on Terror, and its effect on the culture clash many British-born Muslims take for granted as part of everyday life.
Noting that the 7/7 bombers had what he calls "Hovis accents", in contrast to the Eastern Al Qaeda stereotype, Morris presents our Four Lions as recognisably English. Omar (Riz Ahmed) is a happily married man seemingly ill at ease with both British foreign policy and militant Islam; simple-minded Waj (Kayvan Novak) seems content to follow Omar's lead; Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) has the weapons training and the wherewithal; and Barry (Nigel Lindsay), the white convert and therefore most radical of all, seeks in vain to give political direction to the group, Citizen Smith stylee. A fifth member, Hassan (Arsher Ali) is later recruited by Barry while Omar and Waj go out to Pakistan for terrorist training.
It's not long before we start to engage with these young firebrands as Asians of the "kiss my chuddies" mould, as depicted in the "Goodness Gracious Me" comedy series by Sanjeev Bhaskar and Kulvinder Ghir. Having already arrived at the conclusion that they are determined to become martyrs, their stupidity and incompetence in carrying out any sort of strategy serves to both amuse the audience and defuse any pre-conceived hostility there may have been. Omar and Waj feel a culture clash with real hardcore mujahadeen in Pakistan far more acutely than they do in their native country, and their clumsy, counter-productive attempts to become fully-fledged terrorists end in risible failure.
Comedically, the film is at its strongest in the last act, as the four stooges attempt to target the London marathon, disguising their bombware and blending in to the event by using outsize, comical fancy dress outfits. However, up to that point it feels like Morris has fallen short of the high standards he has set himself. Also, we never quite get under Omar's skin enough to know why he feels he has to set forth on such a path of radical self-destruction. Indeed, given the influences of his moderate yet faithfully observant brother, and his modern yet supportive wife, the film fails to help us understand the sort of anger against the West that leads him to reach the stage we find him at.
Barry, on the other hand, is an excellent comic foil, spouting controversial exteremist bile to a media pack always hungry for fresh outrage, yet at heart the most confused of all. Nigel Lindsay plays him fearlessly with the right amount of self-important bombast, revelling in how radical he is and how much outrage he can generate, while personifying the empty barrel making the most noise.
Overall, this is a brave attempt to extract humour from a difficult subject, and while it works well, it is neither outrageous enough to provoke a genuine outcry nor funny enough to earn critical approval as a work of comedy. Don't get me wrong, there are several genuine belly laughs to be had here, but the characters are to type and derivative, and there's a certain predictability to some events. While both funny and thought-provoking, however, I came away a little disappointed Morris's work wasn't that bit better.
I'm of the opinion that Chris Morris ios pure comic gold, his series Brass Eye was one of the funniest satirical comedies ever shown on British TV and now he has come up gold again on the big screen.
Never one to shy away from controvery and getting laughs from uncomfortable situations Four Lions tells the story of four British muslims who want to be suicide bombers and they hatch a plot to attack the Lonodn Marathon however they are rather incompetent and hence this comedy works in making a rather sensitive subject absolutely hilarious.
He is not the first to use suicide bombers to get a laugh, quality ventriloquist Jeff Drunham with his character Achmed the Dead Suicide Bomber has been doing it for a while with his catchphrase Silence! I kill you. However in this film Morris manages to take it all to another level.
Riz Ahmed plays Omar who is the leader of the team and the brains behind the plot, to all intents and purposes he is a normal family man, in fact it is the mormarcy of all the characters that makes them so mundane and hence you are able to laugh at the subject matter. Fessel played by Adeel Akhtar is certianly not the brains of the team as he is played as being dim witted and rather vulnerable. Barry played by Nigel Lindsay is a bit of a psycho and in it more for the fact that he gets to blow things up rather than the ideology and finally the fourth misfit is Waj played by Kayvan Novak.
This is one of those movies that you start out laughing at a little nervously but after a while you just relax and enjoy it for the intelligent comedy that it is. It is a funny film with some great character acting in it and some impressive comic performances. The script is sharp and satirical and Morris shows himself to be opart of a creative writing team that can deliver on both small and big screens.
Please note, this is a film only review! And I'm not giving too much of the plot away as I don't think reviews should be about spoilers!
We went to see a movie the other week as I had my Money saving expert recommended £1 Cineworld ticket offer. Nothing much was appealing to me, as I had not seen Iron Man 1 therefore not much point seeing Iron Man 2, and the other two films I was considering, Prince of Persia and Robin Hood both had mixed reviews.
Then I came across this film called Four Lions, which looked a bit unusual and funny. Rotten Tomatoes and Empire both gave it good recommendation, and the hilarious You Tube trailer sealed it for me (as you can see, I will trawl the web for evidence before even considering a film!).
Although it's called Four Lions, there are actually 5 guys in the film who are the main characters, and despite the name, it is has absolutely nothing to do with England and the World Cup.
This film is about a bunch of Northern Asian lads who are banded together in the name of Islam and aspire to be suicide bombers. As much as they try, hardcore terrorists they are not though, and they're about as scary as Care Bears. Dark, crude humour forms the basis of this film by newbie director Chris Morris.
Omar (played by Riz Ahmed) is security guard by night at the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, and leader of the ragtag band of jihadists at all other times. He is probably the most sensible out of the bunch and has a few more brain cells than the rest of them, and he offers guidance and words of wisdom to his friends and his family. They don't always listen, but hey, he tries.
Barry (Nigel Lindsay) is a gruff Cockney white bloke who converted to Islam and he really looks the part with his long white beard and traditional Asian clothing. He is not very good at keeping discreet about his fanatical tendencies as he lectures on discussion panels about his newfound faith. He, unlike the others, doesn't speak Urdu which gives him a fair disadvantage at any ribbing from the others which comes his way (usually from Omar). His obsession is to bomb a mosque which makes sense in his head (to ensure uprising against the West) but not to the others.
The Fonejacker himself makes his big screen debut with Kayvan Novak playing Waj, a tall good looking, but dumb as mutton lad who does believe strongly in the cause, but sometimes has a niggling feeling that something is not right about the whole terrorist arrangement. He looks to Omar for complete guidance, and likes Omar's idea of becoming a martyr to fast forward himself to heaven, which Waj relates to being like the rubber dingy rapids at Alton Towers. He was my favourite from the film, and offered plenty of comedy moments and one liners.
Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) is another dim-wit member of the group, who constantly looks as if the light bulb in his head is switched off. Although he doesn't talk too much, he is an involved member of the group, and you can't help but have a soft spot for the little bearded bloke as he bumbles his way through the film.
Hassan (Arsher Ali) is a new addition to the group, who we meet towards the beginning as he attends a talk on Islam of which Barry is on the discussion panel. Barry takes Hassan under his wing, attempting to show him the right way to go about enforcing Islam. Hassan fits the description of having half a brain cell to his name, and makes a (mostly) welcome addition to the jihadist crew, although he doesn't add much value apart from putting them in jeopardy and making up extremely crap rap songs about Islam.
Within Omar's family we see his pretty wife played by Preeya Kalidas (you probably recognise her from BBC's Eastenders, Mistresses and various other British-Asian movies), his young son, and his brother. His wife and son are quite scarily unfazed by the whole daddy/hubby wants to blow himself up theory, and they seen content in the knowledge that one day the head of their household may not be with them in the near future. Omar even tells his son the story of the Lion King but adapting it to fit his theory of the jihad. All quite strange I thought! But hey, this must happen. Omar's brother is the only one in his family who doesn't approve of Omar's extremist tendencies and tries desperately to encourage him to come to the peaceful side of Islam, to no avail.
I think the film was really well made for what it was, and it is clear there was plenty of research done for the movie, as we see what life is like inside the heads of the bombers, and follow them in their travels to Pakistan to attend training camp, making bombs, and choosing places to blow up. I think it's probably the first film I've heard of which puts a comedy spin on the whole Islamic terrorist subject, and it also highlights stereotypical viewpoints against Asian people. And this film doesn't disappoint.
I'll admit, it wasn't a movie where I was laughing out loud every 5 minutes, but yes, there were plenty of laughs in the theatre coming from both me and my husband, and all the other viewers of that film on the night. The subject is relevant to today's times, and helps us understand a little of where the would-be Muslim martyrs are coming from, although we are not inundated with too much serious dissection on the whys and what fors of their religious, which helps retain the comedy value of the film.
I don't think this film would appeal to all audiences, and I could say it appeals to mostly boys and men with a crude sense of humour, and also to females who appreciate a bit of dark comedy. I'm a 30 year old woman who's pretty young at heart and loves blokey movies like the Hangover etc, so this film suited me really well.
I don't think this movie is showing as widespread as most films, but if you're lucky it will be showing somewhere near you! If you fancy a bit of a change to the usual Hollywood roll of the mill films, give Four Lions a try!
note: also appears on my review site, TheFilmBlogger.com
If his excellent TV series Brass Eye proved anything, it was that Chris Morris is not afraid to push the envelope, nor rough the envelope up a bit, nor attach the envelope to a crow that just happens to be strapped to a bomb. It took almost five years following the 7/7 disaster for someone to make a British comedy film about suicide bombers, and there's little surprise that Morris was the man to do it, on a paltry £2.5m budget, no less. Four Lions isn't a touch as cutting or as clever as the infamous "Peadogeddon" episode of Brass Eye, but it's still a crazy little yarn with some undeniably bright moments.
Taking place in Sheffield, the film follows a group of five men (who become the titular four thanks to an accident involving explosives) organising a suicide mission to blow themselves up along the route of the London Marathon in London. Led by the most radical of all, the hate-filled English convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay), two men - the misguided family man Omar (Riz Ahmed), and baffoonish oaf Waj (Kayvan Novak) - are sent to Pakistan to swot up on their terrorist training, while back home, Barry recruits Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) and Hassan (Arsher Ali) into their group.
If Morris succeeds in any measure at all, it is in his scathing - though absolutely unsubtle - mockery of fundamentalist Islam, treating our group of five as misguided fools, led by the mad-as-Hell Barry, who despises the supposedly decadent values of the West. However, the others are simply weak sheep guided by his rhetoric, for the best they can come up with to supplement Barry's declaration is, in one of the film's funniest moments, "Fuck Mini Babybels!". The very nature of their operation, in which they hole up in a dilapidated flat to prepare the explosives, is amusingly reminiscent of the brilliant Ealing Comedy farce The Ladykillers, no doubt a conscious choice by Morris, who has had a firm pulse on culture both popular and not since his career as a satirist began.
Ultimately though, it's easy to find the scattershot nature of the humour obtrusive to the greater goal at hand, for Morris nearly transforms a succinct comment on the nature of modern terrorism into something that can be dismissed as "random" and absurdist. Not nearly as laugh-out-loud as his work on Brass Eye, the broader tone of the humour is often smart, but rarely hilarious, and it's only in the more bombastic moments - such as when Omar and Waj accidentally blow up a group of terrorists - that the humour invites a response even approaching rapturous.
While on a comic level somewhat disappointing, the final reel, in which the plan kicks off, is a surprising marvel of dramatic tension, as loyalties change, and things reach a literally explosive climax. Though this section is perhaps more serious-minded and conventional, Morris still manages to level some pungent social critique amidst all of the gunfire and plastique, and the film's final moments in particular are as comically tragic as they are legitimately sad.
There's no doubting the quality of the performances here; Nigel Lindsay is the most consistently funny as the absurdly brainwashed fundamentalist Barry, while Riz Ahmed is the film's heart as a family man torn between his supposed "duty" and his wife and young son. The others, while given less to do, are sharply stupid, totally getting what Morris was trying to achieve here, and portraying their roles with the necessary air-headedness.
The off-kilter tone of the humour is not as successful as it was in Brass Eye, but some of the more grounded bouts of silliness - such as the group of terrorists chatting on a children's website called Puffin Party - undoubtedly hit the mark. Simply, as a treatise on the ridiculousness of radical terrorism, it is effective, while retaining some scraps of humanity thanks to Ahmed's character. It's not a classic political satire like last year's In the Loop, but it's solid, if slightly underwhelming work.
Four Lions follows a group of young Muslim men who have become radicalised in the centre of Sheffield. They decide to become suicide bombers and sacrifice themselves. Omar (Riz Ahmed) and Waj (Kayvan Novak) go to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan before returning to the UK. Upon their return Barry (Nigel Lindsay) a convert to Islam and Faisal (Adeel Akhtar) decide to put their cell into immediate action. The group decide to bomb the London Marathon.
Being a fan of Chris Morris and nearly everything he has done in the past I was looking forward to his first feature film. Making the leap from small to big screen has been problematic for some actors and writers from the UK, Richard Curtis and Armando Iannucci have done well but others have floundered finding that ninety minutes of screen time can seem like an eternity.
It's unfortunate then that this comedy really doesn't work. Morris has deliberately chosen a controversial subject matter to base his film upon, but thats where the controversy ends. It's also the film's main selling point which means you are waiting to be shocked, but that never happens. So why bother?
You cannot fault the acting and the performances which are all top notch. Kayvan Novak is probably the film's best find, known mostly for his work on Fonejacker here he plays a really stupid terrorist unsure of his place in the group's plan.
Morris has likened his film to Dad's Army and while not trying to make any political points, it is about the characterisations more than anything. While good, the film really needed to drive home the point it was trying to make - what was the point? What was it trying to do? I left the cinema feeling totally underwhelmed and unamused. There were brief moments when I found certain things that some of the characters said were amusing -brief glimpses of Morris' clever wordplay - but noting significant.
One of the more surprising things about the film was where the characters went towards the end of the film. I won't give anything away, but it certainly made the film less appealing - if that were possible.
It seems that Morris has bowed down and sold out to comedy that includes people falling over and acting very stupidly, something that others have done a lot better than him in the past. Gone is Morris' ability to be clever and inventive, replaced with that is a comedy that is mildly amusing at best with a slightly controversial background. I hope that Chris Morris tries a little harder in his next venture, but seeing as he's hardly the most prolific of writers and directors, that probably won't happen any time soon. Highly overrated and an unbelievable letdown.
I was aware of the controversy surrounding this film when I went to see it and I was intrigued to see how Chris Morris would be able to portray the subject of terrorism is a supposedly amusing way. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting to like the film, because terrorism simply isn't supposed to be funny, but yet I wanted to see it in order to be able to have a valid opinion and to not dismiss it out of hand. Surprisingly, I'm so glad I went to see this film as I think it was a brilliantly original and thought provoking drama which succeeded on every level.
The basic premise of the film is to follow a group of British suicide bombers as they plan a terrorist attack which is to be executed at the London Marathon. The plot is basic and uncomplicated and it is its simplicity which allows us to concentrate on the central facet of the story which is the portrayal of its central characters.
This film follows a British Islamic terrorist cell who are planning to unleash terror and mass murder on the streets of London. All too often we hear on the news from friends and family that the "terrorist" who killed indiscriminately was "a quiet man", "a good father", "a friendly neighbour" - and yet we continue to believe that suicide bombers are simply "monsters" that can be identified by horns and a forked tail dressed up in the guise of Islamic dress. The genius of this film is that it encourages us to see the members of this terrorist cell as the everyday ordinary people that they often are, and we come to perceive these characters as people we like and may even identify with. It is the moral and ethical complexities that this throws up for the viewer makes this film compelling.
The "brains" of the would-be suicide bombers (Omar played by Riz Ahmed) is an intelligent, thoughtful and attractive man who is married to a nurse and an attentive father. To all intents and purposes he seems like a likable northern lad who you could imagine having a drink down the pub with. Another is the moronic and clueless Fessle (Adeel Akhtar), who is unknowingly hillarious and seemingly harmless and the kind of person who you actually feel sorry for because of his naiveity and vulnerability. Waj (Kayvan Novak) seems like a good man who is not the brightest button in the box and is easily led into trouble and struggles with having a mind of his own. And lastly the nutter Barry (Nigel Lindsay) who needs to reason to blow anything up and is the typical idiot that I'd associate with the BNP (ironic therefore that he's an Islamic terrorist!). They are, in truth, completely hopeless as a terrorist cell and there are many laughs as you follow their attempts to become a real and present threat to the British Infadils.
Throughout the film there is no doubting their intention to blow up as many people as possible in the most public and abominable way. Yet what is shocking is that despite this, I found myself liking these people and enjoying their company. They all made me laugh and I warmed to them despite their imperfections - and in many ways wanted them to succeed like I would want a good friend to succeed. Chris Morris allows us to see the world through their eyes, and although he interjects humour by portraying the group as the most unco-ordinated, useless and hopeless would-be terrorists imaginable, he also addresses the reality of Jihad with stark realism and honesty.
The final moments of the film play on our emotions as we wait to see whether this group of men who we have come to like will actually go through with creating mayhem and destruction on the streets of London. Needless to say their plan doesn't go according to plan and there is more mayhem as one by one they mess everything up. I believed that they would not succeed and, had this been the case, I feel that I would have been more comfortable with my feelings at the conclusion of the film. Liking failed would-be suicide bombers seems more ethically acceptable than liking successful suicide bombers who are responsible for mass murder on the scale seen in London in recent years. I guess, if I'm honest, I didn't believe that they would go through with it....and I was left feeling stunned and shocked when Omar willingly walks into the pharmacy at the end of the film and blows himself and many innocent people to smithereens.
This film works. I don't even understand why it works....but it does. Its warm, funny, challenging and shocking - and its rare to have a film which truly challenges our preconceptions and allows us to see the world through enemy eyes. In truth I did not see these people as the enemy - and that is probably what is most brilliant of all.
I honestly believe this film is going to have a cult following and its something that years from now people will still be talking about. Its current, its topical, its intelligent and its entertaining - and I'd urge anyone to see it.