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Four Lions (2010)
Morris produces a disappointing, unexplored titter-fest that should have been so much more...
Having been a Chris Morris aficionado going back to the On The Hour radio shows, I am well versed with the comedic calibre and murky depths of Morris' humour.
Four Lions is a film that promises so much from the very outset, but it quickly becomes evident that it is going to take a much less daring or challenging direction.
The opening scenes are clunky and rely far too heavily on the stumbling, bumbling, prat-fallerie of the protagonists. Towards the end of the film, these physical and oral goofs become tiresome and solitary vehicles for the laughs of the film. There are plenty of humorous moments, but they often didn't hit home runs - just a smattering of protracted sniggers from the audience interspersed with 3 or 4 bigger laughs throughout the film's duration. The dialogue between the marksmen, for example, goes on far too long after the joke had already died.
The film's main problem is the hyper-real portrayal of the farcical efforts of this amateur jihad-wannabe group, which turned a ripe opportunity to show the gritty, cobbled-together reality of home-made terrorism into a gross parody, effectively neutralising the original intent of the film. This should have definitely been a case of 'less is more'.
The characters themselves are likable and stupid. You come away from the film feeling a fondness for them and their efforts, but again - their hyper-stupidity subtracted much from the potential conflict of emotions that should result from identifying positively with mass murderers.
The final, inevitable suicide-bombing scene felt rushed, and was handled with much awkwardness - the tension coming across more like an episode of ITV's television series 'The Bill' than the genuine terror of human suicide bombing. There is plenty of footage on the Internet that could have served as research material for what happens during such terrifying events. Instead, we are treated to puffs of smoke and loud bangs - once again not serving as any kind of counterpoint of realism to their ham-fisted, cartoon-like efforts (see An American Werewolf In London for a superb contrast of extreme comedy and extreme violence).
Four Lions is, however, a solid comedy from the tradition of Dad's Army et al, but falls frustratingly short of the potential offered by the subject matter and by the pedigree of the writers and director. I was expecting to leave the cinema with a traditional Chris Morris-instilled mind-wrenching cavalcade of existential bleakness to wrestle with. Instead, I quickly forgot about the film, and carried on with my evening.
Enjoyable, with 1 or 2 meme-potential lines, but not the film we had been promised or waited years for, and certainly not a classic.
Why, Lucas??? Why? Why...? ...Why??? Please! Tell me!!! Why???! Why?!!! WHY???!!!!
There was a trailer beforehand of Kung Fu Panda somethingorother. The film then started with the Paramount mountain, formed from a gopher mound, and an unrealistic CG gopher poking it's head out of the mound. I actually didn't realise this was the film, and still thought I was watching a Disney trailer. This was my first sign that the film was going to be a filing cabinet full of soiled underwear.
This complete cowpat of a film is truly a sign of the shifting zeitgeist of what is expected from cinema. At least from Lucas et al.
There was so much wrong with this film, I don't even know where to start. Every scene was a howler.
Story has now been replaced by technical ability with CGI. Character development is now abandoned in favour of a panicked attention-grabbing frenzy of disconnected scenes. Comedy comes from prat-falling CG chipmunks, rather than wit or a character's reaction to a situation (remember the German bad guy and Indy's reaction to the Arab on the windshield of the truck in 'Raiders'? Hilarious!). The bloated chase scene was incomprehensibly ludicrous. Fantastical CGI renderings paved the way for unrealistic feats of human acrobatics that would not have been out of place in the Matrix Reloaded car chase.
Think of the scenes in Raiders where people are actually talking to each other for extended periods: Belloq and Indy in the Marrakesh bar; Indy and Sallah looking at the headpiece in the old man's house; Indy and Marcus talking about the ark with the CIA guys in his University. These are all great scenes. Classic scenes. They divide the action and drama nicely. They set the stage and peg the narrative so you know - without being patronised - what is going on. I didn't have a clue what was happening in Crystal Skull, and just as I was getting my bearings - an alien spaceship took off!!! I whispered to the guy next to me 'Please... make it stop.'.
I really thought that Lucas would have learned a very sore lesson from the reaction to the re-hashed Star Wars movies. We don't want Midichlorians. We don't want CGI. We don't want prat-falling comedy robots and gophers. We want soul, scene, story, character, mis en scene, tension, performance, dialogue, good casting, solid character relationships.
You will not get this from 'Crystal'.
Which scene scared you more: Marion hanging 15 meters off the ground from the statue of Anubis in Raiders, or Marion driving (giggling) off a cliff into a tree (with no guarantee that she wasn't going snap the branches or miss the tree altogether) only to be let down gently into the water by the flexing tree, still giggling?
This film has stretched tension and drama into the ludicrous and that's exactly what it ends up being.
When you come out of the cinema screen, turn around and look at the expressions of the people walking out behind you. I did, and it was a collective 'Has someone just farted?'
High Points: Denholm Elliot's breathtaking performance.
Low Points: Everything else.