Machine Gun Preacher is one of those films that appear out of nowhere. The trailer only appeared in the cinema about a week before its release but it was enough to pique my interest.
PLOT: Sam Childers, (Gerard Butler) a reformed criminal and drug user, finds God and turns his life around. He receives a calling from God and travels to Southern Sudan in order to put his construction skills to good use. Sam builds an orphanage but faces a constant battle to secure funds to keep the orphanage running and protected from the rebels. END PLOT
The plot is choppy and the concept of time is never portrayed well. Sam goes from reformed criminal to successful business man during dinner and the only reason the audience knows time has passed is because his daughter has aged about five years and the actress has changed. It isn’t clear how long and how frequent his trips to Africa were.
The action was very realistic and they did not hold back in showing trauma to children so it was uncomfortable to watch. The action scenes mostly happened on dark, secluded roads but they were always announced as Butler always made sure to be wearing a bandana just before they were shot upon.
Machine Gun Preacher was such an uncomfortable watch because of the violence and trauma the Sudanese children suffered. If you show me a child with a grazed knee on Children’s Hospital I am in pieces – show me mutilated or burned children and I will not be able to cope. The problem is Machine Gun Preacher used this to the point that I just couldn’t wait for the film to be over.
I will never be able to imagine the horrors children in Africa go through on a daily basis and Machine Gun Preacher did show this in extreme and you could argue in essential detail but from a film-making point of view I thought it was incredibly sneaky.
Machine Gun Preacher was the story of Sam Childers however I felt no emotional connection to his story whatsoever. I have never found God and I appreciate that it a personal experience and will not come with a brass fanfare and hallelujahs ringing in the air but it almost came across as “Baptism? Aye why not I will have a bit of that”.
Sam Childers development was just as choppy as the plotting as he fell in and out of love with God, Sudan and his best friend constantly. There were times, even after he found God, when Sam was just unlikeable. I couldn't help feeling unsympathetic towards him regardless of the phenomenal work he was doing.
It’s almost as though Mark Forster, the director, realised that there was no emotion in Sam Childers and really ramped up the “children in peril” aspect in order to stop the film from being a complete bore. If they managed to make Sam Childers engaging to the audience Machine Gun Preacher had the opportunity to be one of the big hitters of the year.
Performance wise it Butler was fine. It did take me a while to get used to Gerard Butler’s America accent however once he stopped running around like a SAMCRO reject I started to buy into his performance. I wonder if a stronger actor would have been able to strike the emotional chord which Butler failed to do.
Machine Gun Preacher is based on the true story of Sam Childers, a most remarkable man who has done more good in his life than I will ever will, but from a film point of view the Machine Gun Preacher just falls short. It gets a decent 7/10. I wont be watching it again.