Saturday, July 7, 2012
JohnnyTwoToes reviews the action biopic about Sam Childers, former gang biker turned preacher and defender of African orphans
Machine Gun Preacher (2011) tells the mostly true story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) as the heroic protector of the orphaned children of South Sudan based on his book 'Another Man's War'.
For those uninitiated; Sudan has long been at war with itself between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Lords Republic Army lead by the murderous dictator, Joseph Kony. The LRA is a sick joke of a title for this army because it is anything but Christ like. They are known to tear into villages in the dead of night, kill anyone who even resists and take the children as forced labor and troops in their army. Kony, as their leader has been allegedly responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 people and tens of thousands either disappeared, maimed and injured.
Ok, on with the review. Sam Childers did not start out as the fearless hero the children came to love and admire. No, his beginnings were far from that. As the film opens, he is shown being released from prison and picked up by his ling suffering wife Lynn, a former prostitute and strip dancer played beautifully by the lovely Michelle Monaghan. Now that all the time has passed, she has become a spirit filled Christian as well as her daughter, Paige also well played by Madeline Carroll. Now that he has been released from prison he, at first takes up right where he left off; boozing, drugs, sex, and crime.
Over time, however, his heart begins to soften and he realizes he can no longer live the life he has been living. Soon, Sam finally receives Christ as his Savior and his life seems to start over. He starts out in construction and begins his own business and becomes quite successful. He even saves his dearest friend, Donny (Michael Shannon) from the wretched live he has as well.
Clean and reborn, Sam becomes active in the Pennsylvania church he was saved in. It is here he hears of the atrocities in the Sudan and Uganda, although the film focuses almost entirely on Sudan. His mission that he takes upon himself is to build an orphanage in the middle of a war zone as a refuge for those who need it. For this, he bets his business, home and everything he has to make the orphanage a reality.
Machine Gun Preacher is not a perfect film but it is earnest and well meaning about enlightenment, pain and redemption. Director Marc Forster (Kite Runner, Monster's Ball) peppers the film with action as Sam's nickname "The Machine Gun Preacher" is born. Sam is unafraid to pick up a gun and kill anyone who threatens the children of his orphanage, despite naive and rather insipid critics who think he is contributing to more violence. Forster stages the action competently but does not overdue it.
The film worked best for me in its drama as Sam tries to do what he believes is best and right with what he can financially and physically do. He tries to do this while balancing his family and the church in Pennsylvania of which he now is a preacher (in the film, anyway). Gerard Butler gives one of his better performances as Childers. He is a man who knows what he is capable of, tries to make it right and still battles his demons along the way, some days better than others. Butler is sympathetic and true in his portrayal of Childers and makes the film more effective.
Jason Keller's script does the Childers cause justice with intelligence and power and Asche and Spencer's score is gorgeous. Machine Gun Preacher is a decent film, well acted, directed, written and scored. If I had any complaints I would say this film could have been longer and had some additional input to combine the action and the drama in a more coherent flow as some of it is disjointed and oddly edited. Other than that, Machine Gun Preacher is a solidly informative and enlightening film that deserves to be seen. Available on DVD. Machine Gun Preacher-*** out of 4