Saturday, October 6, 2012

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

After his release from jail, Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) quickly returns to his life, as a ruthless gang biker and drug addict. Although, Sam’s wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) has changed. Wanting to start a new life, Lynn quits her job as a stripper, and becomes a Christian. This decision enrages Sam, because he believes Lynn passed up a golden opportunity to make easy money. Sam’s best friend, Donnie (Michael Shannon) joins him in a life of crime, and together, they rob a drug dealer for his money and merchandise.

But after nearly killing a hitchhiker, Sam decides to turn his life around. Sam becomes a devoted Christian, builds a church, and eventually, Sam travels to Uganda. In Uganda, Sam dedicates his life to helping the children of South Sudan. But Sam’s efforts to build an orphanage are challenged by the viscous LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). Desperately needing help, Sam joins forces with the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army), but he is slowly consumed by his efforts to help the children.

Sam Childers is a complex man. At first, you’ll see an angry junkie/gangster, who is hell-bent on destroying his life. After his baptism, Childers becomes a more caring family man, who will do anything to protect his wife, and his daughter, Paige (Madeline Carroll). But Sam’s dedication to the crisis in South Sudan drives him to madness. Sam alienates his family, his friends, and he becomes a deranged man, who will do anything to save the children. The Sam Childers character has to face a lot of tough challenges throughout this film, and he endures serious changes. Gerard Butler’s very convincing performance brought a strong sense of believability to the conflict within Sam, as he struggled with his responsibilities as a father and husband, and his commitments to the children in South Sudan.

Butler delivers the best performance in this film, and Machine Gun Preacher features some very solid acting. Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon are the highlights from the supporting cast, and for what it’s worth, seeing Shannon portray a vulnerable character felt kind of weird. Shannon always seems more comfortable portraying the angry guy or the jerk (8 Mile), and he has delivered some memorable tirades (Take Shelter and Revolutionary Road are a few examples), but Donnie is a nervous and soft-spoken junkie. Still, Shannon really nailed this character, and he has to be the most underrated actor in Hollywood.

Marc Foster’s style is pretty bland, and his directing doesn’t add any positiveattributes to this film. Machine Gun Preacher is an emotional and gut-wrenching film, but the cast brings brings the story to life, not Foster’s directing. Truth be told, I’ve never been a big fan of Foster’s work behind the camera. Monster’s Ball was highly overrated, and Quantum Of Solace was mediocre at best. I enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction and Stay, but Foster doesn’t deserve too much credit, because both films featured good acting and clever screenplays.

Machine Gun Preacher is a violent and emotional drama. This film tells the story of one man’s mission to make a change, and at the same time, Machine Gun Preacher provides a brutal inside look at the crisis in South Sudan. Machine Gun Preacher features some genuine hard-to-watch moments, and the graphic violence is pretty intense.

Gerard Butler really delivered an outstanding performance here, but Machine Gun Preacher was panned by the critics. You’ll have to search hard for some positive feedback, and it’s a real shame. When you compare this film to Butler’s recent bombs (The Ugly Truth, The Bounty Hunter, Law Abiding Citizen), Machine Gun Preacher feels like a classic. But Coriolanus received overwhelming amounts of praise, and Butler has a few new films coming up very soon. There’s still some hope for Gerard’s career. He just needs to stay away from anything that involves Katherine Heigl in the future, give the romantic comedies a rest for a while, and he should be fine.

Final Rating: 8/10

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