The Reluctant Infidel (R16)

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Review byMatthew Turner9/04/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Enjoyable, if occasionally uneven British comedy, enlivened by a sharply written script and a terrific central performance from Omid Djalili.

What's it all about?
Directed by Josh Appignanesi, The Reluctant Infidel is written by David Baddiel and stars Omid Djalili as Mahmud, a London cabbie and Muslim family man who discovers, to his horror, that his birth parents were Jewish and his real name is Solly Shimshillewitz. The timing of Mahmud's discovery couldn't be worse, as his son Rashid (Amit Shah) is anxious for him to meet the father of his fiancee (Soraya Radford), radical imam Arshad El Masri (Igal Naor), and Mahmud isn't exactly the most observant Muslim in the first place.

Terrified to tell his wife (Archie Panjabi) and the rest of his family the truth, Mahmud turns to his erstwhile rival, Jewish cabbie Lenny (Richard Schiff), an American ex-pat who lives across the road. As Lenny teaches Mahmud all about being Jewish, the two men gradually become friends as Mahmud attempts to visit his dying birth father and tries to work up the courage to break the news to his family.

The Good
Omid Djalili is terrific as Mahmud, delivering a likeable performance that allows him to get away with lines like "You find out you're Jewish and suddenly some bloke in a uniform is leading you away" (after being refused a look at his adoption files). There's also strong support from Richard Schiff, who generates remarkable chemistry with Djalili, to the point where their friendship becomes the strongest and most interesting element of the film.

Baddiel's script maintains a steady stream of witty lines and near-the-knuckle gags (such as Mahmud's youngest child running around yelling “Jihad!”), while also exploring some provocative and intriguing ideas.

The Bad
That said, it's fair to say that many of the jokes fall flat and that the film occasionally struggles to find the right tone, unable to decide between out-and-out slapstick (a scene involving Mahmud being caught on camera at a Muslim extremist rally is painfully contrived) and a more serious-edged satire.

Worth seeing?
The Infidel is by no means perfect but it delivers several good laughs and explores some interesting ideas. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 19/08/2019 13:34

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