Review: Four Lions

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A comedy about bombers killing people at the London marathon. We are on shaky ground aren’t we?

I was apprehensive of seeing Four Lions and, as the credits roll, I had every reason to be.

Film starts well, four young men disillusioned with the West plot their way to the afterlife with a suicide bombing.  Straight away my fears seemed allayed – our four protagonists are utter morons, spouting preposterous slogans and utterly detached from reality. We laugh at their nonsense and their clownish ineptitude – in true parody fashion the audience is asked to look at these people with contempt. ‘Don’t go to the capitalist McDonalds! Go get the bargain bucket from the Halal restaurant – only £6.99!’’ We watch them edit their video messages where they squabble and fight, ‘these are the bloopers’ one says to his puzzled wife, ‘’infact they are all bloopers’’. Whether they are dancing along to campy pop tunes or scuttling along the ground to ‘evade’ the police everything is played for laughs. In one superb scene they attempt to train crows to attack a toy house – with predictable results.

Its not just terrorism that is parodied.  Fundamentalism takes some swipes, a friend refuses to enter a room because a woman is there, the Lion King is reworked as a Holy War tale. Islam itself however, is never sullied. The film is conscious to show Muslims are British citizens and as vulnerable as anyone to the extremism. To hammer this point home our group plots an attack on a mosque – in the name of Islam.

Three quarters through and we have an intelligent and daring film breaking down the ‘us’ and ‘them’, Britain is faced by wicked men devoid of justification – there is no glamour to their cause. I believed I could relax – this was not in bad taste, if anything it was as vociferous in its condemnation as any film could be.

Our film concludes with an attack on the London Marathon – bombers dressed in hilarious fancy dress costumes plan. It’s all going so well.

Then people start dying.  Passers by, shop keepers. Our clownish group launch a successful bombing in the capital. Yet the ‘’comedy’ doesn’t stop – as people are dying we have the Honey Monster running about while a teenage mutant ninja turtle runs from police. Our leading man tries to sort out a new phone contract to coordinate his strike while the shop keeper tries to sell him free minutes. A film that has tried so hard to demonstrate that suicide bombing is an abomination now uses their strikes as visual gags – ‘oh look Honey Monster just blew up a restaurant, while dressed as Honey Monster, isn’t that funny?’

It’s rare that I have been so disappointed by a film, it has such comedy for so much of its running time. Then we have scenes of the police killing the wrong people but then joking about the difference between a Star Wars Wookie costume and a bear costume. Imagine if the Jews started breakdancing at the end of Schindler’s List, the danger of taking your eye off the ball.

Looking past the story we can safely say the scrupt and acting are superb throughout – delivery is spot on and we ‘’like’’ the characters despite their motivations. Young actors, I imagine successful careers await them all.

Cinematography is another highlight. Many sequences are filmed as if they are the video messages while other scenes are shot ‘shaky cam’ style – in the style of a police surveillance tape. This lends a realism to offset the absurdity of the scenes themselves and gave the film a distinctive style.

So much of this film was so very amusing – perhaps not side splitting – but intelligent nod’s to real world situations and past events. It was so very sad to watch it all unravel. I do not want to get carried away here – but after such intelligent writing it was depressing to watch it all just melt away.

Four Lions was perhaps a bit like an Arsenal game – great entertainment for 89 mins then a clumsy penalty and they lose 1-0. I expected little only for it to give me much – and then snatch it away. 

Go and see, make up your own mind, but for me this gets 4/10.

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One Response to “Review: Four Lions”

  1. moviegeek Says:

    I really wanted to like this film… but sadly a brave film doesn’t necessarily make it a good one.
    Chris Morris’s constant attempts to turn it into a slapstick comedy undermines the important message behind the film and dilutes it all into a superficial exercise.
    Not a disaster, but it could have been so much better…
    Here’s my review: http://wp.me/p19wJ2-aq

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