The story of a young Muslim forever changed by radicals is one well-established on the news pages, but the micro-budgeted indie film "The Taqwacores" boasts a different take on this narrative.
Based on a cult novel by an American named Michael Muhammad Knight who converted to Islam, it drops wide-eyed Yusef (Bobby Naderi), a Pakistani engineering student studying in Buffalo, N.Y., into a house of Muslim punks whose piousness doesn't preclude their right to party, pray and rip out offending pages of the Koran.
Leading the charge to draw in "the new guy" is mohawked, sexually rapacious friend to all rejects Jehangir (Dominic Rains), while the house's resident fundamentalist Umar (Nav Mann) works himself into fits of rage — just not the cool, punk kind — at the slightest breach of orthodoxy.
As a misfit-centric slap at religious conformity, the story's premise couldn't be more primed for trenchant social comedy, but screenwriter Knight and director Eyad Zahra opt for maintaining a thin veneer of tiresome obnoxiousness over exploring the contours of an emotionally complicated subculture.
A profanity-spewing lesbian in a burka, for instance, is a sight gag, not a character. It's hard to say which classification the filmmakers intended, though.
"The Taqwacores." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood; and Edwards University Town Center 6, Irvine.