Reviews Film PROFILE
COMEDY/DRAMA FOUR LIONS (15) 101min ●●●●●
In his feature film directorial debut, Chris Morris drops a hand grenade on the notion that all films about post 9/11 terrorism need to be worthy and sensitive to religious groups. Morris hits the right note by poking fun at individuals who want to blow themselves up as part of a misconstrued notion of Jihad. On the surface is seems that comedian Morris is trying to make an Islamic Life of Brian by portraying a group of unlikely Sheffield lads planning to form a terrorist cell.
They are a small part of a wide Islamic community that is brimful of completely batty and idiosyncratic characters. Nonetheless, the coup that Morris pulls off is to side with the view put forward by most British Muslims; that suicide bombers are as Islamic as pork sausages. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as Morris has gone on record to criticise Martin Amis and Abu Hamza for taking Islamic writings out of context and using them to incite religious hatred to meet their own agendas. Arguably the Four Lions bombers seem loosely based
on British terrorist figures such as shoe bomber Reid and the vicious men who committed the July bombings on London’s transport network. The cell leader Omar (Riz Ahmed, who as Riz MC made his own contribution to sending-up the terror threat with his track ‘Post 911 Blues’) travels with Waj (Kayvan Novak) to Pakistan to attend a terrorist training camp. Morris uses these scenes to question the notion that Al-Qaeda is a top- notch ubiquitous network creating kamikaze fighters by the hour. What’s most unusual is that these wannabe terrorists
could be characters from any modern British TV comedy. Morris depicts the guys as wanting action and excitement to lift their mundane lives rather than as fanatics. Alienation and disenfranchisement are themes that run throughout the film.
Nonetheless, while Morris scores on character development, humour and ideas, his ability to tell an engaging narrative is less obvious. The movie loses its way in a flabby and over repetitive middle segment before what is one of the most explosive and dynamic endings to a British film in years. A great debut. (Kaleem Aftab) ■ General release from Fri 7 May.
COMEDY HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (15) 99min ●●●●●
As with Snakes on a Plane, the best thing about this charmless movie is its title. Director Steve Pink did much to kickstart the cinema bout of 80s nostalgia when he wrote Grosse Point Blank, starring that consummate 80s icon John Cusack. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s better to leave the past alone.
The concept of the film is a mixture of Weird Science and Back to the Future, with four guys Adam (Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson), Lou (Rob Corddry) and Jacob (Clark Duke) venturing to a ski chalet in a misguided attempt to help suicidal Lou overcome his latest bout of depression. They travel back in time to 1986 when a hot tub malfunctions.
Pink doesn’t care much for character development, which would just about be forgivable if he made a decent fist out of capturing and poking fun at 80s fashion, music and culture. Apart from the occasional one-liner, this is an opportunity missed as instead he delivers a puerile and derivative broken hearts storyline. Both Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover are wasted in glorified cameos. (Kaleem Aftab) ■ General release from Fri 7 May.
NICOLAS WINDING REFN Born 1970 Copenhagen, Denmark
Background After coming to prominence by re-sculpting his 1996 hit Pusher into an accomplished drug-trilogy, Danish writer/director Winding Refn’s controversial Bronson won him plaudits for coaxing a remarkable performance from Tom Hardy as Britain’s most notorious prisoner. Refn’s follow up, Valhalla Rising, was shot in Scotland, featuring Mads Mikkelsen as One-Eye, the toughest warrior of 1000AD. How would you pitch Valhalla Rising? ‘To me, it’s more like a science-fiction film than a conventional epic. It’s about characters who are not so much travellers by foot or boat, but pioneers who feel like they are travelling into space. And to them, where they’re going is beyond science, beyond anything they know, and the one best equipped to survive is One-Eye who goes from slave, to beast, to warrior, god and then man. That’s the journey we set out to describe.’
How did you make the jump between Charles Bronson and One-Eye? ‘Charles Bronson was a man who connected great art and violence in his head, and Valhalla Rising looks like one of the first paintings that Bronson might have done.’ How did shooting in Scotland work out for you? ‘Very well indeed. We saw that the scenery here could perfectly match the Nordic territories and other locations in the story, while we were also able to go for very civilised meals at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. It was a shame for the actors, though, in that in the interests of authenticity, we couldn’t let them shave or cut their hair for the duration of the shoot, so they ended up pretty dirty. And we shot up north, around Loch Ness, but no, we didn’t see any sign of the monster.’ (Eddie Harrison) ■ Valhalla Rising is on selected release from Fri 30 Apr. See review, page 44.
29 Apr–13 May 2010 THE LIST 43