Zany wacky Al-Qaeda terrorists! A London based cell, whose ties to the real network seem questionable, bumbles and stumbles plotting to blow up various targets. One member is even a white guy. The leader, the only one with a brain, works as a security guard and by outward appearances blends into normal society. A series of botched attempts lead to a terrific climax.
The broad farcical interplay of the first third is overdone. The point that the killers-in-making are human is belabored. Slapstick style humor is not quite reached in this early section, but it’s close, and not clever enough to rise above the serious subject. Co-writer and director Christopher Morris wants to be offensive and edgy just for the sake of it.
But then targets of satire become focused and black humor bites. Like some of Monty Python’s best work, the rules and regulations of organizations and institutions are used to strangle them. Contradictory absurdities are made glaringly clear. For example, the leader’s brother (or close relative, I wasn’t sure) is a devout ethical Muslim and wants to talk the leader out of plotting because he doesn’t believe in violence. But the brother won’t talk with a woman in the room. The leader’s wife won’t leave and contradictions pile up until bickering leads to warfare with children’s toys.
There’s a lot of hilarious material playing unique interesting tones. Cackling mixes with horror and sadness. The terrorists speak of Western icons such as Rambo or James Bond without any thought to their symbolism or history. By the end, the audience is supposed to care about what happens to them, but because they want to do terrible things it made no difference to me whether they lived or died.
I can’t help but admire anything that slams through boundaries of taste and acceptability so boldly. But the too farcical first third weighs the film down from being fantastic as a whole. Mel Brooks thought if you laughed at Hitler then the dictator was robbed. Christopher Morris does the same for terrorists while remaining true to the fact that they are human wither we like it or not.
This review was originally published on July 1, 2010