Based on the true story, Gerard Butler stars as Sam Childers - an
ex-con, biker gang member, thief and drug dealer whose life is
spiraling out of control (that phrase, "spiraling out of control" seems
to apply to so many characters in movies). Finally pushed to the
breaking point, Sam is convinced to find God and change his wayward
Along with help from his ex-stripper wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan), he
becomes extremely active in his faith, and quickly decides to serve as
a missionary traveling to Uganda, but is moved by the plight of
children in nearby Sudan. Curious, he heads into the middle of the
fighting, and Sam realizes he can't just do a little and fly back to
his good life in the United States. He decides to build an orphanage
for refugee children, which puts him in the crosshairs of a civil war.
Can Sam help these war torn
Has he gone too far when he joins up with the rebel forces?
Machine Gun Preacher has troubles connecting
with the audience because it is such an odd story of extremes. Granted,
it's quite true, but the wild swings in tone and behavior by Sam leave
everyone wondering if he has his sanity instead of celebrating him as a
hero. Was that the point? Is this the story of a flawed hero taken
beyond the limits?
Director Marc Forster and Butler show Sam, when he is a gang member, as
one of the most vicious, nasty, horrifyingly violent people you will
ever come across. Writer Jason Keller contributes to this view of the
ex-con, which makes him so horrible, you almost can't believe he could
have a sudden transformation into a religious man, and I think the
audience will find it too hard to look past this and believe he
deserves a second chance. I know I did, even realizing the time period
the movie covers is supposed to be much longer, but doesn't feel like
Forster and Keller try to show us Sam has become as innocent and sweet
as a golden lab puppy as he sets off to his missionary work, but this
gets negated as he becomes full of rage as a freedom fighter joining
forces with the Christians in this Sudanese civil war. See what I mean?
This story is all over the place.
Butler saves Machine Gun Preacher as much as he can by showing
us those extremes in Sam as realistically as he can given the
circumstances and tone of the movie. Plus, it's a great story about
redemption and salvation, even if it is rough around the edges, so it's
not a complete loss.
Machine Gun Preacher is rated R for violent
content including disturbing images, language, some drug use and a
scene of sexuality.