Magazine article The Spectator

Damp Squib

Magazine article The Spectator

Damp Squib

Article excerpt

Four Lions

15, Nationwide

Four Lions is Chris Morris's comedy - comedy of terrors? - about a group of home-grown Muslim suicide bombers, an idea so thrillingly audacious that, when I first read about it, I thought, as you probably did: where is Mr Morris going to hide? In Salman Rushdie's sock drawer?

But while thrilling and audacious on paper, the film itself never properly gets going in any truly risky or satirical way, which is fair enough - what if Rushdie's sock drawer were full, and Mr Morris had to hide in Rushdie's pants drawer; would you like to hide out among Mr Rushdie's pants? - but it feels like a missed opportunity all the same. Morris is an incendiary talent. His Brass Eye paedophilia special, for example, sent up media hysteria and moral panic wondrously, but this? This is part Dad's Army in spirit, and part Keystone Kops, and while it has its sublime moments it never moves in for the kill, and I so wanted that kill. I am quite bloodthirsty in this way. I'm not proud of it, but there you are.

Directed by Morris, and written by him along with Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (the duo who also wrote the utterly marvellous Peep Show, God bless them), this opens deliciously enough. Set in some northern English town like Sheffield or Bradford or Doncaster it begins with one of the radicalised British Asians, Waj (Kayvan Novak), filming his martyrdom video and fluffing it up because his replica AK47 is absurdly tiny but that's OK, he insists, because maybe people won't think the gun is small, only that his hands are too big. I did laugh, I confess, and was happy to laugh. Waj is sweet, but dumb, and it's funny. But then we meet the other jihadists, who are also all dumb, in their way, and while I am generally all for laughing at dumb people - particularly when they trip over in the street, or flourish a Nectar card, as if it says something good about them - this may suffer from the law of diminishing returns.

The others are: Fessal (Adeel Akhtar), who is training crows to fly bombs and thinks he can fool people into thinking he's a woman by covering his beard with his hands (that is hilarious, by the way); Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a white convert who wants to bomb mosques to radicalise the moderates; Omar (Riz Ahmed), the family man and leader, who initially appears smart but turns out to be pretty dumb himself; and Hassan (Arsher Ali), a rapping joker who reveals a bomb belt of party poppers at a political meeting. …

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