One of the defining comedies of the 1980s was Heathers. Its extremely dark take on teenage suicide pushed the line of taste while remaining hilarious. Very few comedies since have gone down that route, especially ones made by the studios. The only way to find that sort of demented humor is to look at the…Cheap Flicks.
Last year one of the funniest movies was a satire made across the ocean called Four Lions. Chris Morris is known in England for his scathingly funny take on politics and culture. He’s often compared to a more twisted Jon Stewart. Four Lions was his forte into movies and he did not let his fans down by tackling the subject of radical Islamic suicide bombers. Just a reminder, it’s really funny.
The reason the film works is because the terrorists aren’t defined by being suicide bombers. Their major characteristic is that they are incredibly stupid. This is not saying Muslims are stupid or even terrorists are stupid. These four guys are incredible dumb.
The opening scene is the blooper reel of their latest terrorist threat video. It goes on for so long and gets funnier with each take because the world feels a bit safer. In The Wire, Baltimore becomes a scarier place because the drug dealers are so smart, how can they be defeated. With Four Lions, it seems like there is nothing to fear because these guys can’t even manage to contact each other without screwing up.
That, of course, is not entirely true. No matter how dumb the four leads are, they are still using bombs. The violence is often unexpected, but it does not down play what’s going on. Sometimes it’s really funny but it always remains disturbing, again, much like Heathers. It’s a responsible film with a clear message. It isn’t hateful or angry, but is more of a playful satire. It’s a rare accomplishment made possible by a strong storyteller.
This is a Cheap Film and it’s amazing that it managed to have a limited American theatrical release. It was thanks to the beloved theatre Alamo Drafthouse who formed a distribution company and picked it up after it wasn’t sold at Sundance. It gained a strong cult following and can now be found on DVD and on Netflix Instant.