FOUR LIONS directed by Chris Morris, written by Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Simon Blackwell, with Riz Ahmed, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak and Arsher Ali. An eOne Entertainment release. 98 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (February 25). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
Chris Morris's jet-black farce maintains a queasy balance between character-based comedy and incisive political commentary for its entire running time. That's much trickier than it sounds, since the movie focuses on a cell of inept British Muslims bent on martyring themselves.
The material wants to be big and broad, but to do that would be to abandon the kitchen-sink realism that's crucial to the movie's tone. Morris, who cut his teeth making the withering satire of The Day Today and Brass Eye for UK TV, never shortchanges the characters for easy laughs, and manages some pointed comments on the state of England's relationship to its Muslim population.
It's a credit to Morris's intelligence, skill and sensitivity that things play out as they do, with moments of mordant wit and piercing satire slowly giving way to the creeping sense that these idiots might actually pull off their scheme.