Film Review: Machine Gun Preacher

Machine Gun Preacher is the recent effort starring Gerard Butler as a gun-nut preacher. An Oscar is the aim, but the result is a misfire.<--break->“></p>

<p><em>Machine Gun Preacher</em> tells the story of Sam Childers, a Hell’s Angel who decides to batter his way to redemption. The film begins with Childers (Butler) leaving prison and returning to his life as a drug addict. Within the opening minutes we are shown scenes of Childers performing armed robbery and injecting a rather large amount of heroin. The film doesn’t shy away from the terrible acts that Childers commits, but it does rush them. Within forty minutes we have seen so many irredeemable acts of violence that, when he changes his ways (he is baptised after stabbing someone), it doesn’t feel cathartic, only desperate. A man looking for a quick escape.</p>

<p>The crimes perpetrated are then quickly replaced with scenes of Childers behaving as some form of hick saint. He pulls his life together, saves his family from a tornado, and then becomes wealthy from creating a building firm. After moving into an enormous country house Childers decides that his services are better used elsewhere and leaves his family to save the children of Sudan, armed only with his bible and, eventually, an AK-47. Unfortunately the sour taste left in your mouth from the opening scenes are not washed away as quickly as Childers’s own sins.</p>

<p>Marc Foster, who has shown so much quality in his previous directorial efforts (<em>Monster’s Ball</em>), completely fumbles his portrayal of Childers. In some scenes he chastises his actions, while in others he glorifies his sacrifices. In reality this is a man who left his real family in order to care for someone else’s. The scenes in which his family struggle without their father are sparsely potted through the film amidst Childers’s holy quest, yet these prove to be the most interesting. While Butler does solid work as Childers (though not Oscar worthy, sorry Ger), it is Michael Shannon as Butler’s unfortunate best friend, now tasked with caring for a family not his own, that provides the beating heart of the film. The action is efficient and the scenery impressive, but the rest of the movie lacks emotional heft.</p>

<p>Perhaps this is due to Childers himself. As a subject he is unpleasant: Sam Childers has given his life to violence, in one way or another. First he fought for drugs, now he fights for Sudan. This is a man not cured from his life of violence, but addicted to it. Replacing the bars of middle-America with the fields of East Africa doesn’t change this fact. Preacher or not.</p>

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