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An explosive comedy; King of controversy Chris Morris returns with a terrorism satire that will blow you away.

THE BIG picture FOUR LIONS (15, 101 mins) COMEDY auteur Chris Morris has never been far away from controversy-courting headlines for most of his colourful television career.

With BBC comedy The Day Today, he satirised the sensationalist British media, while Channel 4's Brass Eye took his brand of anarchic satire to new heights of infamy.

A special edition of the programme devoted to paedophilia and a fictional charity called Nonce Sense drew thousands of complaints and also won him a British Academy Television Award.

Four Lions is likely to court a few more of those headlines, mainly one feels from people who haven't seen it.

Addressing the thorny subject of terrorism with his trademark, scabrous wit - the script, co-written by Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, portrays suicide bombers as clumsy, insecure, funny and loyal friends, who are liable to set off the devices before they ever get to the heart of London.

Apparently Morris came up with the idea of Four Lions after reading about a plot to ram an American warship by a terrorist cell. They loaded up their boat with explosives, only for it to instantly sink.

Omar (Riz Ahmed) is a devout Muslim, who is enraged by the West's treatment of his spiritual brothers and sisters.

He spearheads a terrorist cell in the heart of northern Britain with best friend Waj (Kayvan Novak) and paranoid, white Islamic convert Barry (Nigel Lindsay), who believes passers-by are undercover police officers gathering intelligence on the group.

The jihadists debate potential targets for their deadly payload with Faisal (Adeel Akhtar), who is training crows to fly through windows carrying primed explosives in their beaks.

Omar brings the men together to pose as charity fun runners in the capital, with the aim of blowing themselves up on the streets and taking innocent members of the public with them.

When they finally arrive in London, a policeman approaches the terrorists.

"You're all gonna die in that gear, lads," laughs the copper, referring to the possibility of heat exhaustion inside the colourful costumes. "It's all in a good cause," replies Omar smugly, the double meaning completely lost to the PC.

Four Lions tempers our natural discomfort with some hilarious set pieces, such as two police marksmen debating what the Honey Monster looks like so that they can be sure they are taking aim at the correct fancy-dressed competitor.

The script wrings deafening belly laughs from the exploits of the central characters, such as Omar accidentally shooting Arabs with a misaligned rocket launcher.

Ahmed plays his pivotal role straight, providing the perfect comic foil to Novak as the dim-witted best friend who finds himself at the centre of a siege and likens the situation to his favourite video game: "I got hostages and everything, like Xbox Counterstrike!" Morris' film accomplishes a simple yet vital feat - it disarms the terrorists' greatest weapon - fear - and reminds us that we are all capable of the same acts of stupidity and love. But especially stupidity.

An assured debut then by Morris and one that will keep his cult reputation as king of controversial British satire intact for some time yet.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 7, 2010
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