Machine Gun Preacher is the inspirational true story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the savior of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children.
Machine Gun Preacher is the inspirational true story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the savior of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. less
“An exciting plot gets completely wasted due to poor scripting. Only Gerard Butler’s intense performance makes Machine Gun Preacher a bearable experience. Nothing more than a one-time-watch!”
Machine Gun Preacher is based loosely and partly on the work and life of Sam Childers. Childers was the proverbial bad-boy from Hicksville until her discovered religion and took it as a calling to help out underprivileged kids in Southern Sudan while the country was under the spell of a terrible civil war. What makes him different from the countless other people who did humanitarian work in conflict zones is the fact that in addition to helping build shelters and getting necessary supplies, he also took up arms and fought back against the bad guys. How does this story translate into a movie adaptation? Not so well Im afraid.
Sam (Gerard Butler) is a wayward soul who cant seem to hold a job or keep out of trouble. He has an alcoholism problem in addition to his drug addiction and his partner in crime, Donnie (Michael Shannon) doesnt seem to be helping matters either. His wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) used to be a stripper but took a more righteous path when she found religion and urges Sam to do the same for the sake of his family & himself. After an incident in which Sam viscously attacks a man one night, he decides enough is enough and starts to follow the word of the lord. Soon luck smiles upon him and he hits it big in the construction business. However when he hears a sermon by a visiting pastor from Africa, hes suddenly drawn to plight of those in Uganda and volunteers to help build shelters there. While he Uganda curiosity draws him to Sudan and he is overwhelmed by the terrible situation faced by the people and in particular the children due to the brutal civil war. He decides to do something about it and eventually even take up arms to fight back. His philosophy wins him admirers & haters in equal measure but it also nearly bankrupts him and distances him from his family.
While the movie can fall under the white man saves natives category, the more interesting bit is figuring out what is real and what isnt. Being a based on story, gives the makers the requisite leverage to spin their own cinematic yarn. However what could have been a truly inspiring and complex tale only sporadically displays those qualities leaving you with a muddled narrative. The character of Sam itself is no hero and borders in parts on almost being psychopathic but we see what humanitarian need drives him on. I particularly liked how edgy the character gets in the second half and how he puts everything on the line for what he believes in, though not necessarily being true to those closest to him.
Director Marc Foster doesnt shy away from showing the gruesome atrocities inflicted upon the Sudanese and certain images will make you look away from the screen. However the political background is discarded entirely instead to create a simplistic & utterly superficial conflict-zone setup where there are good guys and bad guys; If they are not with you they are against you.
Gerard Butler gives a very intense performance, channelling all the rage that is within him. Looking at archived videos of the real Sam Childers during the credits, I did however feel that Butler was kind of off the tangent when it came to nailing Childers mannerisms. The other performance which really impressed me was by Michael Shannon as Sams recovering best friend. Be it his attempts at kicking his drug-addiction habit or trying to be the man of the house in Sams absence he is truly amazing. The one piece of phenomenal acting comes late into the movie when he makes a phone call to Childers while hes high and reminisces about their childhood days.
Machine Gun Preacher is a grim tale that attempts to speak about redemption but thanks to the meandering script it falls short of being compelling. The good acting by the cast is wasted but still might be worthy of a one-time watch when it arrives on home video or television.