Four Lions Netflix Streaming DVD | Blu-Ray
Directed by Chris Morris
Starring Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, Arsher Ali, Craig Parkinson, Benedict Cumberbatch
Originally Released: May 07, 2010
Four Lions has been labeled by many as a “dark comedy” movie, but let’s be honest: the term “dark comedy” is a safe phrase added to comedic media that pushes the boundaries and is truthfully dares to make light of that which is considered too taboo to joke about. In other words, it is irreverent humor, which is my kind of comedy film. Four Lions, complete with brilliant performances, an excellent cameo from Benedict Cumberbatch, and the abovementioned irreverent comedy is what we have been waiting for a long time: a swift kick in the nuts of political correctness.
Located in England, the movie follows the tale of four (and later five, and then later four again) young men who fancy themselves as being the most badass and most faithful of radical Islamic terrorists. In actual fact, their whole lives are a complete farce (in the literal sense of the word, indicating a comedic style and approach) – and while they jihad their way to becoming suicide bombers, their adventures are, essentially, a comedy of errors.
And while that outline may seem like a politically incorrect poke at Islamic extremists, make no mistake: no one is left out of being ridiculed in this movie. Law enforcement officials (especially the snipers) are hysterically ineffective, the politicians are the pompous idiots we’re familiar from old Monty Python sketches, and the other authority figures are just as lampooned as everything else. There are no champions or scoundrels in this film – everyone who appears in the movie in any substance whatsoever is a comedic social commentary and exaggeration that, disturbingly, feels not that far from reality.
Four Lions takes strong influence from all comedy media that pooh-poohs in the face of that which is either revered or conversely considered taboo. It hearkens from the influence of classic Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, all the way to the modern comedic genius working in television such as South Park and Trailer Park Boys.
And, man, it absolutely works… all the way through the film.
While the hits and punches are very well timed, the humorous effect of Four Lions is in its long-term timing and pacing. The laughs at the commencement of the film are sparse and spread out, but as the movie progresses, the reaction accelerates exponentially: by the end of the film, I was clutching my guts and wiping tears from laughing so much.
Four Lions is faithfully (pardon the pun) an accomplished film, simply because the writers and the performers were brave enough to tread into “that which is considered offensive” and make light of it. I think this is an important aspect of life many more should welcome, especially here in the USA – because it truly does make you question why we label things as taboo, or offensive, or politically incorrect, or no-go-zones. The film successfully highlights the absurdity of this.
The performances in Four Lions are of astral quality, with each of the main actors brilliantly molding their characters with specific identifiable traits as the story progresses. There are no sobering or poignant moments – and their delivery throughout the film is fantastic. Riz Ahmed plays Omar, our main protagonist in the film, who we mainly follow. The satirical family life he leads is nothing short of bizarre, with his wife embracing his radicalized ideals, and his instruction of these ideals to his son in the form of an oral retelling of The Lion King in which Simba is in the middle of a glorious Jihad.
But possibly the best performance of them all in this film is Nigel Lindsey, who plays English-born Muslim convert, Barry. His delivery of the aggressive, knuckle-headed but domineering character falls nothing short of mind-blowing, and quite literally steals the show. His character is very much the kind we’ve seen in countless movies and TV shows of “the ridiculous schemer” who comes up with the most atrocious scams ever to be invented among a compendium of other equally bad ideas. But while the character type is not new, Lindsey TOTALLY sells the character. He is dead set about blowing up a mosque, pretending it wasn’t done by them, to “radicalize the moderates.”
What was unexpected to me was the sudden, but short, appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie, who appears during the climax performing as a very inexperienced and inept hostage negotiator for the police. Cumberbatch is an exceptionally unique actor, accomplished as a proved professional that “disappears into the role” – and he certainly did in this role. When he appears on-screen, you won’t be thinking Sherlock, you’ll be convinced that he is the blundering police negotiator. I must say this is quite a major highlight, especially for such a minor cameo role.
Being set in England, there are many cultural nuances and colloquialisms used – to magnificent effect and with many laughs I might add – though I fear some of this dialogue may be lost on some American viewers. However, don’t be put off by this: Most of the stuff you will get and it will hit you, and you’ll be bowled over with laughter.
There are detonations in this film, and the characters do go on their jihad mission, but I can’t give away anymore as it would totally spoil the experience. Four Lions is deeply set in moral ambiguity – writer and director Chris Morris does this calculatingly; for while it feels discomforting and disturbing at times, he highlights the importance of not being gripped by fear of the unknown, the uncertain, and so on.
It’s a significant film, and perhaps one of the greatest, and more meaningful comedy films to have come out in many years. Four Lions is definitely worth a look.