Under the Radar?: “Four Lions”


“Four Lions” is a British comedy revolving around a group of inept jihadists.

Here’s an example.

When wanna be terrorist Waj travels to Pakistan in order “train” at a terrorist training camp, he gets engaged in a heated argument over which direction to pray towards, vehemently insisting he knows the direction to face. The truth is, hailing from Britain, he’s accustomed to facing east in order to pray towards Mecca. He misses the fact that, now that he’s in Pakistan, Mecca is to the West.

As dimwitted as that is, it may actually be his least moronic moment in the movie.

I’m the Mujahideen and I’m making a scene
Now you’s gonna feel what the boom-boom means
It’s like Tupac said
“When I die, I’m not dead”
We are the martyrs
You’re just smashed tomatoes
Allahu Akbar!

You certainly wouldn’t associate terrorism with comedy. Yet “Four Lions”, directed by Chris Morris, is completely hysterical. The group of five would be terrorists it focuses on are each dumber than the next. They say and do dumb things, they’re hypocritical, they’re Punks. Moron level stupid. They are utterly inept. I mean, these men make the Three Stooges look competent by comparison.

One’s plan is to blow up a mosque.

At one point, another suggests blowing up the Internet. And he’s serious.

The movie has a free form feel to it, like a Christopher Guest movie if he visited the subject of British, moronic wanna be terrorists. The cast – Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Adeel Akhtar, and Arsher Ali, are each excellent. They curse as vigorously as they do in “In the Loop”. The dialogue is ridiculous… The exchanges are fantastic.

Barry: I am the Invisible Jihadi! They seek him here, they seek him there, but here’s not there, he’s blowing up your slag sister!

Omar: Invisible? Right. Like the time you got on the local news for baking a Twin Towers cake and leaving it at the synagogue on 9/11?

Barry: That is part of the plan! Hide in plain sight, you mug!

There’s not too much plot in actuality. Four morons try to blow something up before they blow themselves up. It climaxes in a sequence that half silly and half serious that I don’t want to spoil by describing, but it’s great. It’s funny and it’s frightening at the same time. There’s messages to be drawn about the futility of terrorism, the ridiculousness of perpetrating violence for the sake of dogma, and the impotent, ineffectual way that terrorism is being combatted. Few sides are left unscathed.

There’s enough mockery to go around for all.

A- This movie sends up terrorism in the same way “Blazing Saddles” sends up racism. By showing the perpetrators to be absolute morons.


14 thoughts on “Under the Radar?: “Four Lions”

  1. I missed this when it came out in the cinema and totally missed it when it came on TV here a few months back! Really want to watch it. And moreso after what you’ve said 😀

  2. I haven’t heard of this one before today but it sounds totally awesome. Badass terrorists Naked Gun style…what a concept!
    Thank you for the suggestion, I’m adding it to my list.

  3. I’m of two minds with this movie. Some moments absolutely made me guffaw, yes guffaw but overall, I thought it was quite uneven with long patches that were bland. Nonetheless, everyone should give it a shot!

    • Guffaw! 😀

      Beauty word. LOL. “Guffaw” is right. Very accurate usage for this particular movie watching experience.

      I’m going to try to work that into some future reviews….

      I never thought it was that slow. I locked on to the characters and never let go.

  4. I loved, loved, loved this movie. I think it’s brilliant; it blends together high drama with high comedy and satire and yields a really unique and I think quite special film that’s incredibly relevant and as infuriating as it is hilarious. It’s not just sending up the terrorists, and in fact I’d argue that Morris is as much taking a shot at the authorities as the terrorists themselves. Four Lions is really about how four people can be led down the path of violent religious extremism, those four being everyone except Barry because he appears to represent the sort of blind, logic-immune hatemongers that push otherwise sane people into doing terrible things.

    I think it’s also a bit of a character study specifically of Omar, who seems to be an intelligent man with reasonable gripes against Western society. Maybe he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but I can understand most of his criticisms even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. Now, you take a man like that and throw him into contact with violent zealotry, and what happens? He becomes the sort of person who abandons his reason in the belief that blowing up a crowd of people and taking his life in the process is “right”.

    And of course it’s about the incompetence of the police, who manage to kill two innocent people and arrest a roomful of others in their quest to stop the terrorist plot.

    Great movie all around, and thanks for being someone I can talk to about it! It doesn’t get enough attention.

    • Heh.

      I promise a more thorough response later when I can do it justice but for now I just wanted to say “thanks for being someone I can talk to about it!” is DEFINITELY mutual, but its also across the board… love the online discourse on all the flicks. Here and over at ACVF! (A Constant Visual Feast, which is Andy’s blog for those of you who may see this but not know)

      which basically defeated the point of using the acronym, but… its comedic now.

    • You’re right, this movie should get more attention.

      First off, it’s HYSTERICAL. I was rolling. The dialogue, the characters, I thought it was super funny… but then to be the type of movie that has something to say, as well? Something you can sink your teeth into and discuss issues about afterwards? THATS a rare breed right there.

      You’re right that the director is also taking a shot at the authorities as well. I mean, there’s no doubt.

      It is about Omar, for the most part… I mean the film definitely gets – I dont want to say more serious per se, but less funny? When its his home life. Not to say he’s any less funny than any of other, because when he starts in with he arabic and the subtitles come up, it is some ridiculous cursing. SO funny.

      But I mean, he’s got a wife and a kid, it would seem like he had a decent home, you know? So I’m not 100% sure of his motivations… but I’m also not sure he was mislead… It seems as though he’s more than wlling, and when the film opens, he seemed as much a leader as Barry. Raj was following HIM you know?

      A lot to think about. And thats just such an unexpected package to get with a comedy…

      • I think the way Omar reacts to their crumbling plan in the last act, coupled with his horror at realizing that he’s connived his best friend into blowing himself up, definitely suggests he’s at least been somewhat pushed into extremism. The Barrys of the world can be compelling in their fashion, I guess. I really think it’s Omar’s Waj-driven epiphany that makes him wake up, in any event; Waj is at his core just plain good, someone who believes that what they’re doing is wrong no matter what Barry or even Omar himself has to say about it.

        Waj is probably the film’s moral center. He might be dense as a rock and easily led into situations that he wouldn’t create on his own, but he’s genuinely sweet in his child-like behavior and at least cognizant enough to realize that killing a pack of strangers in a public area isn’t right. It takes Omar the entire movie to see it, but Waj gets what the right course of action is (even though Waj probably doesn’t know that he knows). I think Omar recognizes that at some point he’s been sold a pack of bullshit lies and that he’s duped Waj just as he’s been duped himself.

        I don’t know if Omar’s been mislead in the way that Way has VERY CLEARLY been mislead and manipulated, but someone along the way managed to fool him into thinking that mass murder is righteous.

        And all of this exemplifies what makes Four Lions so great. You’re spot-on, Dan, about this being “serious” in the midst of its humor; it’s not light and fluffy comedy but satire aimed at a very serious global issue affecting the planet right now. This is socially conscious stuff. And I think that’s what will make it last, in the end.

  5. “He’ll be in heaven before his head hits the ceiling!”

    This and In The Loop are two of the best comedies to have come out of Britain. Armando Ianucci and Chris Morris are both masters of satire. Great to see them both switching so effortlessly from TV to film.

    • Didn’t know they were on TV, but yes, this movie was hysterical. I can imagine that it’s even better if you’re picking up on all the slang and whatnot 100% LOL. There’s always a “loss rate” when I watch these 😀

  6. Four Lions isn’t meant to be “Naked Gun” style throwaway slapstick, yes it’s funny, but there’s a dark edge to the humour, especially for us Brits who find the subject matter quite close to home ( even closer, as I recognise some of the streets of Sheffield where I once lived!)
    It’s funny, and sad at the same time, and a very brave effort to confront home grown terrorism when it’s still going on around us, with plots being discovered and intercepted with alarming frequency.
    Chris Morris who’s film it is, says the subject matter is based on real events he’s read in the news! It might also be worth checking out Brasseye and , The Day Today, both tv shows by Chris Morris that often sailed close to the edge of controversy, one sketch called “Cake” about a supposedly new, dangerous street drug, got mentioned in Parliament, and a host of celebs were duped into filming heartfelt pleas of concern!!!
    Four Lions may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s well worth seeing

    • Well… I know I liked it. A lot.

      I mean, its a rare film that juggles comedy and a “message” or some kind of serious theme well. And this was definitely one of them. Definitely, like you say, a dark edge to the humor.

      I probably wouldnt go back to check out any of his older works at this point (its all TV apparently) … but I’ll definitely say Morris is on my radar going forward, for sure.

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