When a controversial subject hits the media and gains widespread coverage, someone at some point will make a spoof of it to try and expose its funny side. In this case, the subject is terrorism - something that at first might not seem funny at all, but which is morphed into a good laugh here by director Chris Morris and a collection of excellent actors playing a gang of British jihadi terrorists whose worst enemy is their own stupidity.
Morris deserves praise for writing a film about such a near-the-knuckle topic, but he deserves particular credit for his patience and diligence when putting the script together, having spent several years researching the plot and interviewing people who knew their stuff. The plot in itself is strong too, with plenty of twists and turns and a speed that is not difficult to follow (despite what some reviewers will have you believe). The one concession I will make about the plot is that the ending does turn out to be quite sad, something that even the most ardent fans of the film will probably admit to.
But the actors all put on strong performances, and make their characters not only funny but also very believable. Omar is the group leader, and is the only halfway sensible member of the clan, armed with a no-nonsense and generally upfront attitude. Waj, apparently a relative of Omar's, is hilarious throughout with the thoughts of a eight year-old and barely a trace of any adult intelligence. Faisal isn't much brighter, attempting to train crows as suicide bombers and stockpiling combustible chemicals all bought from the same shop. Barry is an excellent addition as the only white member of the group, developing some absurd attitudes and practices for the other members of the group and using equally ridiculous reasoning to justify it. Hassan, the fifth and final member of the group, seems less stupid than the others but is addicted to using his camera and makes crucial blunders that force the group to completely re-write their plans.
In short, the humour in the film sounds like a lot of tired, drawn-out and pedantic excuses being strung together within the same argument, which is what makes some of the humour so ludicrous. The other style of humour that works particularly well comes up whenever Omar reverts to using Urdu, usually when having a go at Waj or one of the other members of the group. The translations, given in English subtitles, are incredibly coarse but for that reason alone a bloody good laugh. You can decide for yourself what the funniest moment of the whole film is - for me personally it was the garage scene with Faisal, Barry and Hassan shortly after Hassan is recruited, which had my friends and me laughing louder than anybody else in the cinema.
If you're an excessively politically correct person, you probably won't like this film. If you don't understand British humour (or better said, if you don't have a dark and slightly warped sense of humour), you probably won't like this film. If you pride yourself on being prim and proper and are averse to swearing and perceived "stupidity", you certainly won't like the film. Other than that, my recommendation would be to get the film and enjoy watching it. Four Lions isn't a stupid film made for stupid people. It's a stupid film made for people with a realistic, down-to-earth sense of humour. Sometimes it's in man's nature to be un-PC, and it's also in man's nature to be prejudiced, no matter how intelligent we might be. Plenty of Muslims have written positive comments on this film (largely since they know that the film isn't attacking non-extremist Muslims), just take a look at YouTube clips from the film if you want proof. And the fact of the matter is that people have been laughing about grim subjects, coarse humour and other people's misfortune for literally centuries, regardless of how it might not seem funny at all if it happened in real life. No-one would laugh if they saw a man in the street punch himself in the face. You can laugh when Barry does it in Four Lions.
P.S. if you liked this, check out Lance Manley's book "Stab Proof Scarecrows", another good middle finger to political correctness.