December 20, 2010 -- A movie about a group of terribly incompetent London area jihadist suicide bombers who blow themselves up is an odd idea for a comedy. If you accept the premise, you could experience this as a funny movie. I couldn't really accept the comedy premise. Most of it did not seem to be that funny to me. Instead, it fails in its attempt to meld slapstick comedy, satire, black comedy and pathos. It seems really sad instead of really funny.
I get what the filmmakers were trying to do, and it is funny when the bumbling jihadists go to Pakistan to train to be terrorist fighters. One of them fires a rocket launcher in an attempt to shoot down an American drone aircraft. He holds the rocket launcher backwards. The missile goes in the opposite direction he intended it to go, hitting an Al-Quaida base camp in Pakistan and killing Osama Bin Laden. This sort of incompetent terrorism is funny up until the point when it starts hurting innocent people. When one of the bumbling “four lions” is ordered to kill and behead the girl next door because she saw some bomb-making equipment in their apartment, that's not funny.
It is also not funny when shopkeepers and customers are killed by suicide bombers and when another bomber decides not to go through with the plan and is killed anyway by one of his “friends.” I also didn't find it funny when a bomber living a comfortable life in London seems to be fully supported by his wife and child in his insane plan to blow himself up with his stupid friends. The same bomber engages in an unsavory use of symbolism to persuade a very weak-minded friend to go through with a suicide bombing. On the other hand the assassination by police of a person in a wookie costume, mistaken for a bear costume, and the subsequent justification of this by the police, is very funny in a dark way. There are definitely some laughs in this film. But more often than not the film is an unfunny attempt to examine mindless extremism using humor.
Another problem with the film is that these terrorists are so much like the Three Stooges, they should not be able to successfully process hydrogen peroxide hair products into bomb materials and they should not be able to set up remote detonators with cell phones, but they do. Hydrogen peroxide is difficult and dangerous to handle. In fact, several real terrorists in the London area tried to build hydrogen peroxide bombs in 2005 and they failed to explode. There are some who say this film is very successful in its attempt to make terrorism funny. I can see where they are coming from in viewing the movie this way. I just can't go along with that ride. It isn't that funny and it isn't that well-made. If you want to see how a dark comedy should be made, watch “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” This film is not even in that ballpark. It rates a D.
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