Everything’s just a little overly familiar in “The Day Shall Come,” a satire with a few too many targets at its disposal.
Chief among its topics is that intelligence agencies tend to trip over their own feet in their eagerness to entice bad guys into bad deeds. Here, an FBI sting escalates out of control.
A chipper young FBI agent (Anna Kendrick) convinces her boss, the Miami bureau chief (Denis O’Hare, recently of “Late Night”), to set up a local militia leader. She’s noticed a few YouTube videos featuring the sermons of Moses Al Shabazz (Marchánt Davis), the self-proclaimed prophet of a group called Star of Six.
It’s true, Moses calls for the overthrow of the white power structure. He and his followers greet each other with the catchphrase, “Black Santa prevail,” which isn’t exactly “Power to the people,” but has a certain zing.
The Star of Six has only a half-dozen or so members, including Moses’ increasingly impatient wife (Danielle Brooks, from “Orange Is the New Black”). They’re all about to be evicted from their Miami compound, which means Moses must find money, fast — leaving him vulnerable to a sting operation.
There’s a problem, though. The FBI’s undercover operation wants Moses to sign off on accepting a cache of guns from a fictional arms dealer — an undercover operative pretending to be from Al Qaeda (or maybe ISIS, nobody’s too sure).
But Moses is strictly anti-violence. This puts a crimp in the FBI’s plans to sting, somebody, anybody, with terrorist leanings.
The story spirals into a zany saga of rival sting operations and a plan to unleash fake nuclear devices. The plot includes a white-supremacist group whose leader is played by comedian Jim Gaffigan, and a talking horse that advises Moses on his strategy.
“The Day Shall Come” is directed by Chris Morris, a British comedian best known in the U.S. for his 2010 film “Four Lions.” That piece of slapstick, about a bumbling crew of suicide bombers, had a cruel edge that perfectly suited its subject.
The new film seems tamer in every way. Maybe it’s the softer style of American satire affecting Morris’ attack, or maybe the Star of Six is a weaker target. Moses and his congregation are silly, but they seem like a harmless group of fantasists, not really worthy of our trouble.
Newcomer Marchánt David has an amusingly befuddled look, and Kendrick and O’Hare display their usual crack timing. And yet most of the jokes are just a tad overstated, slightly pushed with winks or eye-rolls, as though Morris didn’t trust the audience to pick them up.
At the very end, “The Day Shall Come” has a serious moment, where it dares to draw blood. But for the most part, this comic grenade fails to detonate.
“The Day Shall Come” (2½ stars)
Some hapless Miami FBI agents (Anna Kendrick and Denis O’Hare) plot multiple sting operations to snare a comically harmless militia leader (Marchánt David). The satire, from British director Chris Morris (“Four Lions”), is curiously tame, and the main target is unworthy of this kind of attack.
Rating: Not rated; probably R for language, subject matter
Opening Friday: Varsity theater