Four Lions – Review

Four Lions (2010)

Directed by Christopher Morris. Starring Kayvan NovakNigel LindsayRiz Ahmed

Chris Morris is probably not a very well-known figure outside of the UK. The English comedian, writer, actor and director is famous in his own country for his controversial radio programmes and television sketches.

Four Lions is his first feature film but it does suffer from that feeling of a made-for-TV type of product, both in its look, its format and its construction. It is essentially a series of sketches some of which are more successful than others, but as a whole it’s not as strong and coherent film as it wants to be.

Apparently it was originally rejected by both the BBC and Channel 4 as being too controversial, and you can easily see why. The plot tells of a group of inept suicide bombers and it’s clearly a subject anyone would normally stir well away from, especially in a comedy.

“Four Lions”  is undoubtedly provocative and certainly quite a brave film, unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily make it a good one and in the end you can’t help feeling a sense of superficiality to the whole thing: it is an honorable but failed attempt.

The main problem is to do with its comic depiction of his main characters  which veers not just toward the parody but the slapstick. This clownish approach makes it all a little bit too over simplistic and doesn’t ring quite true as it probably should.  It’s hard to believe that somebody like Omar, the main character (Rix Ahmed, the only actor worth watching in the whole film) would actually  decide to “work” or even just associate himself  with anyone so stupid like all those people in his group.

What Chris Morris is trying to do is to make the terrorists look like regular guys, likeable people and not just real monsters. However by treating them like silly idiots, it diminishes the message of the film and any emotional response  the audience could have towards them. So one side you have touching (and yet uncomfortable) scenes like the moment where Omar tells the story of  his version to the “Lion King” to his son. On the other hand you get moments which could be straight out a Mr Bean sketch, undermining everything he’s done before and, above all, our suspension of disbelief . These two “styles” don’t necessarily glue together as a film.

I didn’t find the comedy very funny at all (call me sad, but I don’t think I laughed once)  and because of these incongruous way of telling the story, nor I found the film as moving as it was probably trying to be.

On the technical side of things, it’s all done rather on cheap and it shows. There’s nothing remarkable about the photography, the music, or any of the technical aspect of the film, which makes me doubt whether this should have ever been a cinema experience at all.

Furthermore, the thick Sheffield accent and constant British references could even limit its worldwide appeal.

In the end it all comes across just as a brave but very superficial exercise and it’s a real shame because this could have been something quite different, almost life-changing.


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14 Responses to Four Lions – Review

  1. Nostra says:

    As you’ve read my review I obviously don’t agree with you on this movie. I don’t think there was a moment where the movie was trying to be touching. Even the story about the Lion King was one big joke (also the way he treats the subject in his home).
    If it’s not your kind of humor (which is subjective) I can imagine you not liking the movie as a whole.

    By making the characters very stupid the viewer can laugh about the whole situation, but in the back of my mind I did also see some points that were trying to be made.

  2. steev says:

    Just to continue the discussion from my post on Screen Addict about Four Lions – – I have to ask: you said you didn’t laugh once? Not even at the scene in which one of the characters described his many ‘disguises’ for buying chemicals? Or the scene where they shake their heads from side to side to mask their faces from surveillance cameras? They made me giggle, at least…

    I agree it wasn’t, perhaps, as funny as it could have been, but I think that’s largely down to the subject matter and that whole notion of not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

    Anyway, thanks again for checking out my blog.


    • moviegeek says:

      I really didn’t mind the subject matter, nor the irreverential tone of the comedy, but somehow it didn’t think work for me (I only half giggled at the point where **SPOILER AHEAD** the first guy accidentally blows himself up, but even that moment was telegraphed to such extreme that didn’t work for me as well as it should have).
      If you really want to see something where terrorists are shown as people (as well as monsters) you should probably then watch the beautiful TV series “Sleeper Cell”. It becomes a bit too cliche towards the end, but boy it’s good!!

  3. I enjoyed your review quite a bit. I don’t really disagree with your problems with the film, I just didn’t mind the problems, because I was so strongly connected with the characters. I think what it comes down to is, whether or not the viewer finds it funny or not. If you don’t find it funny then it won’t work. For me it was extremely funny, very emotional, and thought provoking. Thabks for checking out my review. My official site is check it out, maybe we can agree or disagree on some other films.

  4. norelle says:

    Great review. Like you, I am one of the people out there who didn’t like it .I also felt it was a huge let down after all the hype about how funny and clever it was . I believe it would have worked better going straight to video or tv .Paying $2 on cheap video day would have suited me better. I would not have felt like I was ripped off at the end, like I did at the theatre! Don’t get me wrong..I love a controversial topic..I also love to watch art house films made with mere pennies. This one however felt like a bunch of students messing around on a class project and it just didn’t make me laugh, like the posters promised me it would. Like you I struggled to find anything hilarious. There were, perhaps, a few amusing moments,like when the bird blew up??.see..I question that too. The film trailers showed all the ‘so called’ funny bits, so nothing was new by the time I saw it. There was nothing that made me want to rent it out again on dvd in the future.
    In a nutshell..It is a film that you will either like or hate. (I can’t bring myself to write love, as I just can’t imagine loving this film! ) Sorry to any fans.

  5. Pingback: Four Lions – Review (via moviegeekblog) | The Calculable

  6. Phill says:

    Cheers for your comment. I did very much enjoy this film, but I definitely agree that much more could have been done with it.

  7. Marshall says:

    I live in the fourth biggest city in the country and this movie still has never played here. Wow. Guess I wasn’t missing much…

    • moviegeek says:

      Well, I could you could check it out, but if I were you I’d wait till it comes out on DVD or it gets show on TV to be honest. It won’t loose much on a small screen.

  8. Pingback: Pish Talk: Four and a Half Lions | Attack Ships on Fire

  9. Leo says:

    I hated this film very much, all the time was impossible to me to find anything close to believable and even less funny. And he is leaving his family alone it does not make any sense. I think this doesnt help understand what makes people get carried to sch extremes and it doesnt work for me as a “it is stupid but so funny” kind of thing. I really enjoy absurd and messing with the wrong stuff, but this movie is just plain unwatchable, I wasnt even able to finish watching it and got so angry about all the good critics that made me got it that I went mad searching for bad reviews and there is only a few. I really dont get it.

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