It’s so hard to satirize government ineptitude and arrogance these days, when cable news and Twitter feeds are reporting the real thing on a minute-by-minute basis — but the dark comedy “The Day Shall Come” manages to find a few laughs in absurdities that haven’t yet come true.
In Miami, Moses al Shabaz (Marchánt Davis) leads a small congregation — three male followers, plus his wife Venus (Danielle Brooks) and their daughter Rosa (Calah Lane) — with promises of revolution against the “accidental dominance of the white race.” He aims to do this by farming in the city, and summoning the dinosaurs with an air horn. One of his strongest tenets is that he and his followers will not, under any circumstances, use guns.
Meanwhile, the Miami branch of the FBI is looking to nail some would-be terrorists, after the last sting operation yielded a guy too afraid to dial the cellphone to detonate the fake bomb an FBI informant sold him. The station chief, Andy (Denis O’Hare), needs a quick win — so he jumps at the suggestion of a junior agent, Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick), who has been watching Moses’ Facebook Live videos, in which Moses and his men stage fake drug deals to rip off trust-fund idiots.
So Kendra sets up two of the FBI’s Arab-looking informants, Reza (Kayvan Novak) and Nura (Pej Vahdat), to try to entice Moses with an offer of cash and AK-47s. Moses, needing cash to keep his landlord from evicting his fledgling movement, is willing to take the deal, which angers Venus. “You’re being played, Moses,” she says. He replies, “Maybe I’m playing them, while they’re playing me.”
Director Chris Morris and his writing partner Jesse Armstrong — both reprising their duties from the scathing 2010 jihadist satire “Four Lions” — ratchet up the stakes, and the weirdness, by throwing in some fake nukes, a white supremacist (Jim Gaffigan), and a backstabbing FBI agent (Adam David Thompson) trying to poach Kendra’s case.
Morris’ hand isn’t as steady as in “Four Lions,” and the satirical bite doesn’t have quite the pitbull-like grip. The callousness of the FBI, puffing up low-level criminals into so-called “terrorists” while letting its own informants get away with real crimes, is a rich target for satire, and Morris hits more than he misses.
In a cast with talents like Kendrick and O’Hare, the newcomer Marchánt Davis is a true discovery. Davis extracts the humor and the pain of this unbalanced holy man, to the point where the audience starts rooting for him to get away with whatever crime he’s not really doing.
‘The Day Shall Come’
Opens Friday, September 27, at theaters nationwide, including Megaplex Gateway (Salt Lake City) and Megaplex Jordan Commons (Sandy). Not rated, but probably R for language. Running time: 88 minutes.