Review by Cassam Looch
JUST how low can expectations be for a film starring Omid Djalili and written by David Baddiel? Neither have excelled on the comedy front in recent years (a dire sketch show and equally poor sitcom between them on various TV channels) meant that I had no hope for this ‘cross-culture’ comedy.
The concept hardly inspires confidence either… a middle-aged man discovers that his Islamic family roots have in fact been a lie and he is actually the son of an ailing Jewish man who is on his death bed.
To see his biological father he must take a crash course in Judaism which is administered by an American taxi driver living in London.
The plot tries to tick as many boxes as possible and appear to be as balanced as it can, but in reality when written from Baddiel’s point of view it comes across as very broad and only accidentally funny.
Djalili is fine doing the gags (of which there aren’t nearly enough) but not for one second do you believe him as either a Muslim father or Jewish son. An ongoing problem that filmmakers seem to have is the inability to cast properly when dealing with Asian families. No one resembles anyone else in the Nasir household… although it’s nowhere near as bad as it is in Eastenders!
Mahmud’s guide Lenny is played Richard Schiff in an odd piece of casting as the American veteran feels out of place in this film. He’s one of the better performers, however, and does well when he’s given decent material but these moments are relatively rare.
The plethora of British comedic talent on show fare little better with Matt Lucas and Miranda Hart appearing in nothing roles that are quickly forgotten.
The film is not as incompetent as other recent efforts from the UK, and indeed is a masterpiece when compared to the likes of Shank or Lesbian Vampire Killers, but still fails to hit the heights of anything approaching quality. It looks cheap and plot wise fails to tell us anything of interest… and lacks the authority to attempt that.
You never care for any of the principal characters and the ludicrous twist added towards the end is more Scooby Doo than satire. You’d hope, given the sensitivity of the material and subject matter, that a Muslim extremist character would not be used as a throwaway punch line.
So, even with low expectations, you might well walk away from The Infidel feeling disappointed… our advice is to wait for Four Lions and prepare yourself for something truly original and groundbreaking!
Running time: 105mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 9, 2010