As I began watching FOUR LIONS, my initial reaction was to be offended. Making light of a subject that has destroyed so many innocent lives is by no means a laughing matter. However, as I continued watching I realized my outlook was all wrong. The humor is not at the expense of the victims but at the assailants. I quickly found myself laughing at how their interpretations and actions of their beliefs are absurd and distorted. As you can imagine, this is a very dark topic.
Four young British Jihadists want nothing more than to serve their misguided ideals of becoming a terrorist. Omar (Riz Ahmed) is the leader of these imbeciles who is sent back by actual soldiers from the Middle East for being too dangerous and stupid. Ironically, he’s the smartest of the group. His best mate is Waj (Kayvan Novak), who allows Omar to do all his thinking for him. They express their love to one another by sharing how they would kill each other in various disgusting ways for their cause. Then there is Barry (Nigel Lindsay), a white Islamic convert. Definitely the most hard-core of the group, Barry is all about action and destruction quickly. His best idea is to blow up a Mosque full of fellow Muslims to light the fire under his brethren to begin war. Lastly is Fessal (Adeel Akhtar), quiet but very devout, he is the most anxious to give his life for the cause but due to some family troubles he must hold off for the time being. In the meantime, Fessal practices strapping bombs to birds in hopes to train them to do his bidding.
These four misguided misfits are sort of a modern day Islamic Three Stooges…only there’s four of them. Actually they also enlist a fifth member, a college student equally unintelligent who invites the neighbor girl to their secret bomb-making hideout. Things not going as planned is a definite understatement as their ineptness causes many obstacles. Omar’s brother is a peaceful Muslim who continually tries to talk his brother and company out of their harmful craziness. Unfortunately, Omar’s wife and son like him better when he’s trying to blow himself up. Dressing up as a teenage mutant ninja turtle as a disguise for their suicide bombing, the ending is both gut-wrenching funny and awkwardly serious.
I cannot express how shockingly funny certain moments are. It works because of how seriously the characters play out the scenes. The seriousness is also why at times it doesn’t work. Shot with almost a documentary style, sometimes the goals of terrorism feels too real. Regardless of how dumb they are, their goal is still to kill people. In defense of the extremely dark comedy, the intentions of the filmmakers are to mock the extremist. But that doesn’t stop the fact that terrorism is a serious matter with serious consequences. FOUR LIONS is definitely not for everyone. I on the other hand have a pretty dark sense of humor and laughed out loud several times.