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The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight

Four Lions (2010)

2010 Sundance Film Festival

"Four Lions" and its monumentally stupid suicide bombers will be beyond the pale for some; but as with all of Chris Morris's ferocious satires, its faith in man's ability to cock things up is all too plausible. It would be nice to think that groups of angry young men engaged in low-budget terrorism don't ponder strapping bombs onto crows or occasionally point the bazooka backwards. But whom are we kidding?

Mr. Morris's group includes world-class twerps like Fessal (Adeel Akhtar), who opts for an Irish accent when buying supplies thinking it will avoid suspicion; and vile white sympathizer Barry (Nigel Lindsay), who with the impeccable logic of the zealot and the brain power of a crayon, wants to blow up his own mosque to really get the jihad rolling.

Everyone else on the planet is crackers, too: Police negotiators annoy hostage-takers with sexual banter; religious fundamentalists force their women-folk to retreat to solitary confinement for tea; and trained snipers get confused about the distinction between a Wookiee and the Honey Monster. ("We shot the right man. But the wrong man blew up.")

Mr. Morris's credentials as an agitator were won on British television, where his attacks on media stupidity amounted to an insurgency all on their own, although everything he foresaw came true anyway. Everyone involved in the career of Sacha Baron Cohen owes Mr. Morris a debt of gratitude and a royalty payment, but compared to the bared fangs of "Four Lions," "Borat" is just taking a leak in the shallow end. By the standards of most comedians, Mr. Morris is Jonathan Swift.

Swift would have been pleased to come up with amiable cell leader Omar, expertly played by Riz Ahmed, and delighted with Omar's young wife (Preeya Kalidas) and child, both level-headed, well-adjusted and calmly supportive of Omar's bid to blow himself to bits. The least dopey member of this circus of numskulls, Omar is automatically the most stupid of all, determined to bereave his loved ones and leave them on their own in a world gone mad. Watch Omar's farewell to his wife, truncated by circumstance to a quick "See you upstairs," and laugh. Laugh if you can.


Opens on May 7 in Britain and on Nov. 5 in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Chris Morris; written by Mr. Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain; director of photography, Lol Crawley; edited by Billy Sneddon; production design by Dick Lunn; costumes by Charlotte Walter; produced by Mark Herbert and Derrin Schlesinger; released by Drafthouse Films (United States) and Optimum Releasing (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Riz Ahmed (Omar), Arsher Ali (Hassan), Nigel Lindsay (Barry), Kayvan Novak (Waj), Adeel Akhtar (Faisal) and Preeya Kalidas (Sofia).


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