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Four Lions posterSomebody once said that comedy is just tragedy plus time and Four Lions, a wicked, bitter and hilarious new comedy by Chris Morris, tests that maxim to breaking point (and for some of you, beyond it).

Back in the 90s, Morris was responsible for “Brass Eye”, a mock current affairs series that conned gullible celebrities and politicians into (for example) appearing in advertisements warning the nation against the new super drug ‘Cake’. Fearless and righteous in equal measure, he has made his first feature film and it dares to try and make us laugh at the first world’s current bogeyman, Islamo-terrorism, specifically the homegrown kind which led to the 2005 London bus and tube bombings.

In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, a group of wildly enthusiastic but incompetent jihadists (played superbly by Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali, Adeel Akhtar and Nigel Lindsay) would be making a stand if only they could stop bickering. A trip to a Pakistani training camp, bomb making classes, farewell videos and a trip to the London Marathon are all disasters but Four Lions is only 98% farce — there’s some heart in there too.

Four Lions is pretty much indefensible in print but in a dark cinema you can let yourself go and enjoy some of the finest absurd comedy moments of the century so far.

Life As We Know It posterI’m given to understand that the “ham” in Josh Duhamel is silent. After watching his new “comedy” Life as We Know It, I wish that the ham in his acting was silent too. Duhamel and the ghastly Katherine Heigl play a mismatched pair who are given custody of a baby when the parents are killed in a car accident. They hate each other and aren’t prepared for parenthood but grow to love each other and become a family.

Life as We Know It is a revolting ugly contrivance, Heigl plays her usual insufferable control freak and plenty of clichés are rolled out including the last minute run through an airport to save a relationship. Don’t. Bother.

Farewell posterFarewell” was the code name for a top level Western source inside the Soviet security machine. He fed enough material to the French (and eventually the Americans) to tilt the balance of power decisively in Reagan’s favour and bring the Cold War to an early end. At least that’s the thesis of the French-Russian thriller Farewell which successfully recreates the paranoid psychology of the times and features an excellent performance from Emir Kusturica, better known as a director of films like Black Cat, White Cat and When Father Was Away on Business. If you look closely enough you will also see former tv detective Hutch (David Soul) as a White House spook.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 27 October, 2010 (plus the Buried and The Town reviews held over from last week).