Review – Four Lions

Originally Printed in The Portland Mercury 11/11/10

FOUR LIONS humanizes terrorism.

Don’t misunderstand: This is a very different statement than “Four Lions makes terrorism understandable and sympathetic.” I mean to say that Four Lions does, in fact, humanize terrorism, by reminding the audience that human beings can be incomprehensibly dumb and clumsy animals. One has to be a special sort of idiot to think dressing in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume to suicide bomb a charity fun-run is going to win you any sort of heavenly reward, but this is the humanity Four Lions concerns itself with, and those are the sorts of terrorist plots incompetently employed, and these are the confused, chucklefucked faces of terrorism.

The Three Stooges seem to be a big influence on writer/director Christopher Morris’ film—along with British comedies like The Thick of It and The Office—and like those old Stooges shorts, Four Lions’ plot is just a skeleton to hold up numerous and brilliant gags. Omar (Riz Ahmed) is disillusioned about Western influence on Muslim culture; to combat it, he becomes the mujahideen equivalent of a Juggalo, a wannabe who can’t spare the time or the thought it would take to understand why he does the things he does. Omar gathers a group of his friends, and together, they try to strike a blow against the West on their own turf. They suck at it. Hard.

There is, of course, a political element to the movie, but the film isn’t too concerned with that, nor is it concerned with stepping down to focus on message moments, à la Matt Stone and Trey Parker. That would detract from the joyous reveling Morris takes in punishing the stupid for their sins against intelligence.  Every “threatening” video is rendered inert by innate buffoonery, every passionate piece of rhetoric is riddled with multiple “bro”s and “buddy”s. Imagine the Situation and Tucker Max as chavs, pretending to be Al-Qaeda for spring break, and getting their nuts stomped for it at every turn.

There is no sympathy to be found in Morris’ ruthless little farce, and the comedy benefits all the more for it. Almost every minute of this film is dedicated to subversion: Plots, expectations, and hopes are all kneecapped in a progression of toweringly stupid fuckups, strung together by slapstick set pieces that are jarringly funny. Four Lions is a rare beast: an understatedly absurdist feel-good satire about terrorists.

Published in: on 12/31/2010 at 1:36 am  Comments Off on Review – Four Lions  
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