Movie Review: “Four Lions”

3starsThey’re making a jihadist video, these “Four Lions,” posing in front of a jihadist flag, making their threats and promises of destruction of the “Jews” and “imperialists” and uh, “slags.”

They’re Brits, OK? And they’re not doing well with the ladies. Otherwise, they wouldn’t calls Jews and gynecologists their legitimate targets.

They’re bold, not hiding their faces, waving their guns. Um, waving their gun. But it’s a toy, a bit too small to be convincing. The fellow waving that toddler-sized AK-47 tries to hold it closer to the camcorder, too dense to explain the concept of forced perspective, making it look bigger on camera.

Do the others understand? Not bloody likely. They’re British buffoons, Middle Eastern expats with little interest in the Koran, no genuine gripe against the West that has given them shelter, just jihadist dreams of reconciling their tiny place in the world with the grandiose violent rhetoric of idiotic, testosteroned boys.

Which these “Four Lions” are most assuredly not.

“Four Lions” is a very funny British send-up of the dimwitted children of parents smart enough to escape their repressive Islamic homelands. Mostly in their late 20s, these “Lions” listen to bad pop music, make ineptly menacing videos and one-up each other in their boasts of how they will burn their names in history.

What a bunch of morons.

Omar ( Riz Ahmed) seems to be the smartest. He challenges the loud, bullying Barry (Nigel Lindsay) whenever Barry goes off on one of his “stupid nutter Muslim” tangents about how you keep your cell phone from being tracked by “the Feds.”

“You eat your sim card,” Barry insists. He’s into hazing rituals that he’d never undertake himself but which he insists newcomers to their neighborhood London terror cell complete.

Omar and the particularly stupid Waj (Kayvan Novak) trek off to Pakistan where Omar’s relatives have gotten them into a training camp. The Taliban are not impressed.

“Is he as stupid as he looks?” one asks in Urdu.

The two of them make a hash of their efforts to learn the terror trade, come home, and to save face, amp up their activities. Omar pushes them into bomb-making and now barely tempers Barry’s more wild-eyed fantasies. A goofy young rapper and master of the art of jihadist street theater (Aysher Ali) joins up, and they find a stooge to be their first suicide bomber.

And then it all turns from silly to deadly serious.

This Christopher Morris film pokes fun at bungling cops and clumsy terrorists, even when blood is shed. It broadly mocks guys like Barry, blistering in their rhetoric, plainly covering up intellectual, financial and maybe even sexual shortcomings with their rage.

“Islam is cracking up,” Barry gripes. “We’ve got women talking back. We’ve got people playing string instruments!”

Omar’s a good jihadist dad. When his son asks for a bedtime story, Omar plagiarizes a certain Disney cartoon, about Simba, the jihadist Lion King battling the evil Westernized Scar.

One thing the film doesn’t reconcile is Omar’s place in all this. He’s rational. Yeah, he’s in the shadow of his more devout Islamic scholar brother, the “good son” of the family. But he’s got a smart, Westernized wife and a child, and the wife is actually on board with his loony plans to martyr himself for a cause and a religion he doesn’t seem to understand that well.

The mocking tone of “Four Lions,” opening Friday at The Enzian, seems on the mark, when you think of the shoe bombing, underwear bombing, Times Square cut-and-run clowns who have taken their best shot at us of late. But its chilling third act suggests that sooner or later, even these riders on the Islamic short bus are going to get one right. And that won’t be funny at all.

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali

Credits: Directed by Christopher Morris

Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes

Rating: R for language throughout, including some sexual references

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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