Movie ReviewsRating: 3 of 5 yaps

Machine Gun Preacher

“Machine Gun Preacher” is one of those stories that few people would buy if it wasn’t based in reality.

Gerard Butler plays Sam Childers, a biker hoodlum who goes straight after discovering Jesus and builds a church across the street from his house for sinners like himself. This would be enough for most movies, but for “Preacher” it’s a mere jumping-off point: Sam goes to Uganda, is repulsed by the bloody civil war spilling over there from Sudan, and dedicates his life to establishing and protecting an orphanage.

But Sam is no pacifist “lamb of God” type of preacher: He believes the Lord wants not sheep, but wolves with teeth who can fight the evildoers. The film’s title is not just hyperbole: Sam gets into frequent firefights and mows down more bad guys than the first couple of Rambo flicks.

Curiously, director Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”) and screenwriter (and Indianapolis native) Jason Keller do not focus too much on the right or wrong of this American bringing the fight to the rebels, who kill wantonly and kidnap children to fight for them as enslaved soldiers. It’s more an interior exploration of Sam and the toll a life of such fierce commitment to a cause takes on his family and psyche.

The bad guys are referred to as simply the LRA, but after a bit of Googling I discover that stands for Lord’s Resistance Army. It turns out the Sudanese rebels, led by self-described mystic Joseph Kony, are Christians who follow an apocalyptic form of the religion based on a particularly harsh (mis)interpretation of the Ten Commandments.

This would make for an interesting dichotomy, the two holy men each fighting for their version of the Bible. Forster and Keller briefly flirt with this direction, personified by a female doctor who points out that Kony started out much as Sam did, professing to save the members of his flock from the depravity of the other side.

But as soon as “Machine Gun Preacher” looks like it’s going to tackle some tough issues and really put its protagonist under a microscope, it pulls back and settles for familiar tropes, such as Sam’s wife (Michelle Monaghan) calling to complain that he never spends time with his family, they’re running out of money, etc.

Not 30 minutes earlier, she was telling Sam to suck it up after the rebels burned down the orphanage, calling it a test from God and to just build it all over again.

Michael Shannon adds a few notes as Donnie, Sam’s former running buddy who can’t shake off the lure of drugs and crime as easily as Sam did. But his character flits in and out of the story in a seemingly arbitrary way.

Butler is a fiery presence as Sam, and some of the scenes where he witnesses the atrocities of war — one woman is brought in to the clinic with her lips hacked off, for having talked back to rebel soldiers — have a genuine visceral punch.

But for much of the time, “Machine Gun Preacher” is curiously flat and wandering. It seems to think that by simply presenting the reality of a colorful man, you don’t need to do anything else.

3 Yaps

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9 Responses to “Machine Gun Preacher”

  1. 1. Lester Burnham is the protagonist in "American Beauty"
    2. Read reviews of Machine Gun Preacher. Both liked and disliked the moview…Butler great. Dialogue terrible. Events amazing and horrifying.
    3. I would appreciate pass to Margin Call.

  2. Paul D. says:

    Interesting movie but truly depressing. Not a fan of Gerald Butler, but I did like him in this.

  3. Charlotte Katzman says:

    Both loved and hated this film. Dialogue punchy and realistic. Story told is frightening, horrific and true. Butler was superb: however the real preacher and he bear no resemblance to each other. Seems we humans (and some of us are not, as exemplified by some of the characters in this story) have yet to learn from history: since we do not remember it, we are doomed to repeat it.
    I mention"Lester Burnham".

  4. Daniel says:

    Towards the end of this movie there were barely any dry eyes throughout the entire theater. It was basically an emotional roller coaster that would demonstrate the good and happiness he was creating, but then go directly into showing more negatives that still needed fixed. In my opinion, it definitely did what it set out to do and open some people eyes on what exactly is going on over there. In the end, it was definitely not the most seamless movie, but it still thought it was very good. Butler fit his role very well! I would recommend it.

  5. Liza says:

    Loved this movie Gerard Butler is awesome.

  6. j.c.k. says:

    is it possible to give 5 yaps? this moview was a tear jerker; but awesome! would love to see again!

  7. meinyana says:

    This movie was sad but very well put together! A great remake of a true story!

  8. Carol says:

    I do agree. At times I wanted to fall asleep and then the story would get interesting. It surprised me to see how involved Sam is in saving the people and how he could kill without feeling remorse. I knew how bad things are there but didn’t expect an American to do so much and leave behind his family.

  9. Becky Meredith says:

    I found this movie to be very entertaining but very graphic! Language is strong at the beginning, but I could see its value as the film progressed.

    It was great to seen the ending credits and see how much the movie followed real life! Well worth seeing!