David Baddiel’s foray into feature film writing is what one might expect of him; ok, but nothing remarkable. The Infidel has some humorous episodes, however it falls short overall.
Omid Djalili plays Mahmud Nasir, a moderate Muslim who, following the death of his mother, finds out he was adopted from Jewish parents. The film follows Mahmud as he comes to terms with this shock, befriending a Jewish cab driver, whilst also hiding it from his family, who are preparing for his son’s upcoming wedding to the step-daughter of a radical Islamic cleric.
Perhaps a key problem with The Infidel is the casting of Djalili in the title role. A well-known comedian, Djalili seems to be playing himself in the film. At times he is over the top, giving him less credence when the situation calls for sympathy, or genuine emotion from the character. Furthermore, coupled with Archie Punjabi, the pair look unconvincing as husband and wife, though Punjabi is a talented actress in her own right.
Whilst the premise gives the film license to be controversial, The Infidel errs on the side of caution. Any ribbing of religious and cultural traditions is light, and weighed out in equal measure to the Islamic and Jewish faiths. It seems a deliberate act as to not cause offence to anyone.
The scenes in which Lenny (played by Richard Schiff) schools Mahmud on how to act more Jewish are quite humorous. The film is let down, however, by the big reveal in its finale. Eagle-eyed viewers would be able to spot it a mile off, and it adds little humour to what could have been played out as a hilarious climax.
Whilst The Infidel does provide some laughs, it has the tendency to become rather preachy in places. It is fine for a film to convey a message; however in fictional films this tends to work best when it is delivered lightly, and the film still offers a worthy narrative. The Infidel fails on this count. Thus, at times the film overbears with its moral whilst underwhelming with its story.