Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Four Lions

 May 30, 2012

Four Lions (2010) ***
Directed by Christopher Morris

My tweet:

Four Lions (2010)- Writer/director Christopher Morris is smart & funny. Too bad he made a lazy film. Cartoonish w/ some good laughs *** of 5

Other thoughts:

Four Lions is profoundly politically incorrect on its surface. Within a decade which shot Islamic terrorism to the forefront of Americans' minds, this cartoonish comedy asks us to enjoy spending time with a group of five terrorists. It almost seems like that conceit would be bound to fail in this day and age. After watching Four Lions, I'd find it hard to believe that anyone could really be offended by this film except maybe Islamic terrorists themselves who probably wouldn't be watching anyway. I imagine regular Muslims would view the characters as such bumpkins that they couldn't even see them as real people, let alone Muslims. Thus, writer/director Christopher Morris walked that difficult balance beam successfully.

On the other hand, walking that other balance beam between a good film and a bad film, Morris really struggles to find his center of gravity. From the very beginning, it's clear that nothing in the world within Four Lions actually exists in any sort of dimension rooted in logic and truth. Most of the characters are simply vessels through which aggressive one liners, comic rants and buffoonery are hurled at the audience. Some of them land quite effectively. The mastermind behind the plan for the group to blow themselves up is forced to communicate with the others through a children's chat room where everyone has an avatar of a puffin bird because he believes that the feds will never expect that. When another character's car breaks down at an inopportune time, he claims that all the parts in his car are Jew parts. Another character asks how part of a car can be Jewish. The response is that Jews made spark plugs to control global trafficking.

I laughed loudly a handful of times, and, given that the film is an hour and forty minutes, I guess that's good enough, but just barely. Sadly, the laziness with which Morris constructed this world did bother me. If a filmmaker purposefully does not establish rules to follow, then he or she could really do anything at all. If you can do anything, then you run the risk of putting absolutely no effort into the narrative and the story structure. Morris must have spent all his time on the uneven humor. Too many jokes are really juvenile, which would be okay if some of them were funny. One character mentions that another character initiated him into the group by something involving urination. I felt like I was back in the locker room in middle school. As is the case with any broad comedy, the jokes that don't land stand out so much more. If a storyteller yells the entire story, you'll definitely hear the good parts, but you'll also be forced to hear the unpleasant parts in an unpleasant way.

The final sequence doesn't work at all. It's repetitive and tonally inconsistent. Also, there's a scene early on where one of the terrorists talks to his son using The Lion King as a way to possibly prepare his son for the reality of what the father is going to do. This scene should have been cut since its sentimental tone comes out of nowhere. Morris really needed to tighten up the many loose ends if he wanted a more consistently successful final product. Perhaps Morris was afraid to add truth to Four Lions fearing that he might offend Muslim viewers. If that's the case, then for a film that prides itself as being politically incorrect, Morris decided to be quite politically correct, and Four Lions suffered as a result.


Dave Braga said...

i agree that it's an unbalanced film. i love chris morris, and the day today/brasseye are as good as any comedy i have ever seen. i was thoroughly looking forward to this, and felt a bit let down that the comedy was broad slapstick and featured somewhat one-dimensional and unrealistally thick characters. i get his point that we assume all terrorists are dastardly and clever, and that in reality they're normal blokes with different and occasionally ridiculous reasons for the way they live their lives. they can be clumsy, stupid, they can fight amongst themselves, they can be very confused about exactly what it is they are fighting for, and who they are fighting against. i don't doubt any of this, but making them thick enough to be unrealistic seemed to cheapen the overall effect of the film, for me. the laughs were so bold there was none of morris's usual subtlety, and it made the whole film easier to dismiss as a comedy, whereas i'd have preferred it to ride more of a line between comedy and poignancy. but that's not the film morris set out to make, so i guess if i wanted that, i should go out and make it. i think part of morris's problem is he's got such a phenomenal body of work, and is capable of such brilliance, you feel he's set the bar so high that a good film feels like a real letdown. i came out having not enjoyed it too much (the wookie gag aside - that was genius), and yet have never fully escaped the conclusion i have judged it too harshly. i guess it may be due a rewatch.

can i also say, great to see you posting again. i only found this site some time after you had posted your previous review. i have spent much time browsing the site, and while i don't agree with your opinions on some of them, as is only to be expected, i very much enjoy your reviews. i am doing my own site, and think yours is the bar at which i should be trying to raise mine. it may take some time!

Tetris said...

Looks like a decent movie actually. I'll probably watch it, if it's on netflix.

RAHUL said...

nice review bro

CinemaFunk said...

I loved the movie. There were times where I was torn on laughing hysterically or whether I should be shocked on how outrageous certain moments were.

I'm not entirely familiar with Morris's other films, but I'll be seeking them out.