Ignore the title. This isn’t an exploitation flick. Based on the true story of Sam Childers, a career criminal turned anti-Kony activist, Machine Gun Preacher presents a man maybe too far gone for redemption as he kills in the name of God. With the nicely handled faith verses fanaticism themes, Marc Forster’s film is a gritty look at both the situation in Sudan and an in-your-face examination at the burden of belief in the modern world.
Machine Gun Preacher is an ugly film and, based on where it begins, follows an ugly man through an awful world of drugs, booze, and spousal abuse. Childers (Gerard Butler in a solid fire-spitting performance) refuses to give in to God. Give him drugs; give him booze; give him sex. Just don’t give him God. Recently released from jail, he discovers that his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) has discovered God and turned away from her money-making stripping job. Childers is pissed beyond comprehension.
After altercations with Lynn, his daughter, and his mother in their mobile home, he meets up with good time drug buddy Donnie (Michael Shannon). The two men are dangerous. Uncomfortably so. They are violent and extreme and numb to the pain they cause the people around them and to themselves. One night it goes to far…
…and here is where Childers surrenders to a type of forgiveness. Baptized and revitalized, Childers is either on the run from his past or wanting to make a fresh start of his life. Soon enough, he is a missionary man and volunteers to go to Sudan to help out on a mission. Welcome to Hell, Sam. What Childers discovers in Sudan is nothing short of genocide. Kids brainwashed into a brutal war and a people powerless to do much about it.
Angered but fueled by faith, Childers attempts to balance two worlds: one at home and one in Sudan. His preaching at the church he started up – a church that welcomes all faiths and all types of sinners – is reflective of the fierceness he feels in Sudan. The question becomes how long and what cost to his family can he keep up this run? Is it to redemption or is it from his past? Or is it a bi-polar middle ground that keeps him comfortable?
Either way, Machine Gun Preacher makes for an interesting time and possible discussion afterwards. Obsession or just plain madness? Forster doesn’t shy the camera away from the violence of the Sudan landscape nor does he shy away from the dirty world Childers comes from. What he does fail to address is the path to redemption. Childers finds God a bit too easily when he protests as much in the beginning and from there on out he is fueled by his faith. Never questioning it and always responding to it.
We’ve seen these based on a true story pictures before and – certainly – Forster doesn’t offer anything new into the mix. Sad, considering this is the director that brought us films like Kite Runner, Finding Neverland, and Quantum of Solace. What does work are the themes at play and Butler’s performance as a man constantly on the edge of ... everything. Is he an extremist or is he an honest man? We may never know, but as Childers and his actions repeat throughout the movie, at least he is doing something.
Machine Gun Preacher is a script full of bullet holes and clichés, but presents an interesting look at one man’s redemption.
MPAA Rating: R for violent content including disturbing images, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality.
Director: Marc Forster
Writer: Jason Keller
Cast: Gerard Butler; Michelle Monaghan; Kathy Baker; Michael Shannon; Madeline Carroll
Genre: Action | Biography | Crime | Drama
Tagline: Hope is the greatest weapon of all.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Why don't you fight the evil in this place your way, and let me fight it mine."
Distributor: Relativity Media
Official Site: www.machinegunpreacher.org/movie
Release Date: September 23, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: June 5, 2012
Synopsis: When ex-biker-gang member Sam Childers (Butler) makes the life-changing decision to go to East Africa to help repair homes destroyed by civil war, he is outraged by the unspeakable horrors faced by the region's vulnerable populace, especially the children. Ignoring the warnings of more experienced aide workers, Sam breaks ground for an orphanage where it's most needed—in the middle of territory controlled by the brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a renegade militia that forces youngsters to become soldiers before they even reach their teens.
But for Sam, it is not enough to shelter the LRA's intended victims. Determined to save as many as possible, he leads armed missions deep into enemy territory to retrieve kidnapped children, restoring peace to their lives—and eventually his own. The explosive, real-life tale of a man who has rescued over a thousand orphans from starvation, disease and enslavement...
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - June 5, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy
Playback: Locked to Region A
Mostly shot on 16mm, Machine Gun Preacher keeps its tough-guy attitude intact on this 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer from 20th Century Fox. The filmic quality of texture and grain nicely balances a film so ripe with fine detail it nearly sprays upon viewing. Shadows are deep and solid. The colors – brightly bold yellows and oranges – explode with fine detail one wouldn’t expect from 16mm. Bravo! Contrast levels are sharp and consistent throughout. Skin colors hover around the warm dial a bit much, but that seems to be a stylistic choice to match the oppressive heat in Sudan. The film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track kicks up when there is gunplay on the screen, but – during the film’s quieter dialogue moments – you might find yourself turning up the volume a bit too much for your liking.
There isn’t a good selection of bonus features for this release. You get the typical look at upcoming releases and the film’s trailer which are all standard to any release. For those wanting a bit more, there is a conversation director Marc Forster has about the film that includes information on how the film was cast, his thoughts on the situation in Sudan, and his take on the whole film’s themes. There is also a strangely included (as why?) look at the film’s unremarkable music. You also get a Chris Cornell music video.
- Machine Gun Preacher - A Discussion with Marc Forster (19 min)
- Making the Music for Machine Gun Preacher (14 min)
- "The Keeper" Music Video by Chris Cornell (4 min)