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Film Club: ‘Four Lions’

A Comedy About Wannabe Suicide Bombers?

Riz Ahmed and Kayvan Novak are incompetent terrorists in the British comedy, ...

Credit: Drafthouse Films

Above: Riz Ahmed and Kayvan Novak are incompetent terrorists in the British comedy, "Four Lions."


The critics of the KPBS Film Club of the Air weigh in on the British comedy "Four Lions."


The film critics of the KPBS Film Club of the Air disagree about whether "Four Lions" (opening December 3 at the Reading Gaslamp 15 Theaters) is a comedy that's actually funny.

"Four Lions" spurred a discussion among my friends about what kind of comedy it was and what it's intent was. Filmmaker Chris Morris calls it a farce and that sets up the best expectations for the film. It's almost like a mock documentary chronicling a bunch of bumbling wannabe suicide bombers. But it's goal is not to provide any insights or criticisms. It's intent is to make us laugh at how stupid people can be whether they are cops or potential terrorists. It's point, if it has any, is simply that there is no way to protect ourselves from ineptitude, stupidity, and incompetence.

Listen to our show.

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Welcome back, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, here with Beth Accomando, Scott Marks, and Anders Wright, and they are the critics, this is the Film Club of the Air on KPBS. We're moving on now to a rather odd film, "Four Lions" of it's a satire about inept Muslim Jihadists who live in the north of England. The four or perhaps five members of the makeshift group plan absurd terror attacks and argue amongst themselves about who is most al Qaeda. But throughout their stupid hijinks, this bumbling crew is determined to cause some damage, but is it funny, did you laugh?

BETH ACCOMANDO: Yes, I did, laugh. I watched it with I group of friends and there were a couple of moments where we all looked at each other, we were laughing so hard. We hymn fell off the couch. And we looked at each other and said, we are laughing at the most inappropriate things and we were wondering if there was something wrong with that.

ANDERS WRIGHT (film critic for City Beat): You upon, I watched it by myself, and I laughed really hard. And I almost never watch hard at movies when I watch them by myself.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yeah, that's a difficult. And did you laugh by yourself?

SCOTT MARKS (film critic for I was texting during the movie. I found something it was so -- it's just for children. [CHECK AUDIO] this is the weakest, lamest form of satire. And I just didn't get into this film at all.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you're not not laughing because you feel it's inappropriate.

SCOTT MARKS: Oh, no. If you felt it was inappropriate, you'd have heard me laughing. I just think this is a toothless film. This did nothing for me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Beth, tell us a little bit about these characters and this plot.

BETH ACCOMANDO: Well, Chris Morris has a background in doing a lot of these, kind of, fake news kind of shows. And he was really a lot of these stories about real terrorists doing stupid things. And if just struck him that there was some humor there. So he creates this group of characters, the interesting thing about the film, is that on this certainly level, it's kind of like this mock documentary, and the screens with these families and these characters, plays kind of realistically. It's not played very over the top or sitcom.

SCOTT MARKS: Wait, wait. You really think --

BETH ACCOMANDO: No, but some of the scenes with the family and stuff, he's not playing this like a sitcom with yuk-yuk jokes.

SCOTT MARKS: They're sitting at their morning breakfast -- there's no way a mother would stand for this. And Anders said to me earlier, you're not a Muslim you don't know that.

BETH ACCOMANDO: No, but it's not played with a yuck yuck, laugh track kind of thing. These guys -- what's funny about it is that it's not made a big deal of. It's funny because they're watching it, and they're arguing over the bloopers in their Jihadist terror tape, and they're complaining about things that somebody said or somebody did. Ful and it's the mundaneness -- judge and they're just terrible at it. Of.

ANDERS WRIGHT: They're just so bad at being Jihadists.

BETH ACCOMANDO: They argue about having the wrong sized gun in order to create the right sense of terror.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I was to ask addeners, 124 going to anger some Muslims?

ANDERS WRIGHT: Undoubtedly, it's going to anger some Muslims.

BETH ACCOMANDO: It's going to anger people. [CHECK AUDIO].

ANDERS WRIGHT: Their faith is being misrepresented, and there are going to be people upset that there's a movef being made, a comedy, about terrorists at all. It's important to found out that there are Muslims in this film who absolutely decry the motions of the main characters of there's no doubt about it. But it's a hot button topic, and any time you touch on something like that, you're going to upset people.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Beth, on the director Chris Morris, he's very well known in Britain, but I don't know that he's very well known here.

BETH ACCOMANDO: People probably don't know -- he's in the IT crowd as an actor.

ANDERS WRIGHT: It's that guy. The guy from the IT crowd. Yeah yeah, sure.

BETH ACCOMANDO: Yeah, so I think technically when he's acting, he goes by Chris Morris, and when he's directing, he goes by Christopher Morris. I'm not sure. But we copied a few episodes of a show he did called Jam, the best way to describe it is what if David lynch directed a sitcom. So he's done some kind of odd ball things, scanning a spectrum. But like I said, he's done -- [CHECK AUDIO] but he was doing this before they started their shows of so that's kind of the niche that he's carved out a little bit. So I think moving to this is his first feature film is a kind of a natural progression in a certain way. I think he's a talented writer, first of all, I think the dialogue is totally crisp and crackling, and I think the characters are very, very funny.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Any kudos, Scott enforce taking on this subject at all.

SCOTT MARKS: Just to congratulate something because they dared do something controversial? No, that's never been enough. Because the execution is everything to me. Of these characters are so thinly drawn, there is no foot hold in reality, and if you're gonna do a satire, half fantasy, and there are fantasy elements in this film, you better ground did in reality. And the direct offer of proof has no concept of how to do that. So to me, from the get go, the whole is the up doesn't work and it throws everything askew. Just nothing in this film worked for me, I just thought it was so juvenile and childish.

BETH ACCOMANDO: Well, how does this compare to the producers and springtime for Hitler for you?

SCOTT MARKS: Technically, it's just as bad. Mel Brooks is a terrible -- he doesn't know which end of the camera to blow into it. He doesn't know what to look at. Come on, you have Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder giving brilliant performances. None of the acting in this film even comes close to that.

ANDERS WRIGHT: I don't know, I thought it was very funny. At the end of the film, even though these guys are inept and even though what they're trying to accomplish is horrific, you do end up getting to know them, and when the climax finally occurs, it's not that you're torn, obviously the acts they're trying to do are terrible. But at the same time, you have an affinity for them as individuals and I don't want to say that it humanizes the situation, but there's an aspect of that.

SCOTT MARKS: So, I wish this was a film that humanized the am in. I don't think the film maker is smart enough to do that. Because he shows you characters that he wants you to look down at. All the characters are stupid. You know what this? Thea the beginning of World War II, when they first started showing Nazis, they were goose stepping buffoons. [CHECK AUDIO] knuckleheads.

ANDERS WRIGHT: But that's also sort of the idea. Look at it like this, you also have had these cases over the last couple of years where guys have gotten on planes with explosives and then sometimes not been able to finish the deed.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Underwear bomber,yia.

ANDERS WRIGHT: Yeah. That's sort of the idea as well. But I don't think he's trying to actually humanize it but at the same time at the very end, people are basically having to do the things that they absolutely set out nonot do.

BETH ACCOMANDO: But I think -- I'm not sure if humanize is the right word, but I think he is trying to show that these terrorives are on a certain level just like everyone else. Just like there are idiots working at the local grocery store, or incompetent in that respect, there are these terrorists who are planning to do horrific things and they're just as incompetent on a certain level. Not all of them, but there are some, you know, and it also kind of addresses this issue of, well, why are they terrorists? They have -- they don't have a lot of other option for themselves that could occupy them or lead them down a different course. This is what they're doing to kind of bide their time or to make themselves feel important. Or if I have themselves some sort of purpose or course of live.

ANDERS WRIGHT: These are bumbling guys but at some times they're bumbling around with big bags of explosives.

SCOTT MARKS: [CHECK AUDIO] about the jackal, the day of the jackal.


SCOTT MARKS: And here is a film that takes place from the point of view of a terrorist, and that's not a comedy. And I watched that before I watched this, and I was like wow, [CHECK AUDIO] this is it a really good film. Then when I saw this little, you upon, lame attempt.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Maybe the jury instruction position didn't work for you. Of.

ANDERS WRIGHT: Carlos is coming to down it turns out at the end of the year.

SCOTT MARKS: I'll hold my breath.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We've gotta do Scott's Estonian film. Four lions opens at the gas lamp theatres on December 3rd.

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