Review: Machine Gun Preacher is Inspiring (by Jeffrey Totey)
Opening Friday, September 30th, Machine Gun Preacher is no Hobo with a Shotgun. Both stories appear to be far-fetched, but Preacher is actually based on a true story. For Hobo, let’s hope not.
Preacher opens with Gerard Butler playing drug-dealing, biker-gang criminal Sam Childers leaving prison…again. He is picked up by his long-suffering wife who has news for Sam. Due to a new life transformation, she is no longer stripping for a living. He asks her, “You found Jesus now?” and she replies, “He found me.”
With no desire of changing his own life, Sam continues down the dirty road he started years ago only to find what we already know – that it is a dead end. He finally surrenders his life to Jesus himself, which opens a door to a whole new lifestyle for the man. He picks up a construction job and stays away from the bars. He becomes a family man who attends church on a regular basis, but something is still missing. Sam decides to go on a short term mission trip to East Africa to help repair destroyed homes by civil war. While there, he sees the atrocities of this war and the effect that is was having on the children, many becoming orphans.
Soon, Sam is traveling back and forth from his home in Pennsylvania and breaks ground for an orphanage where it’s most needed—in the middle of territory controlled by a renegade militia that forces youngsters to become soldiers before they even reach their teens. Despite his best efforts to build something good, the soldiers destroy the camp. Fortunately, Sam knows a thing or two about fighting and guns. Determined to save as many children as possible, Sam raises his own small army, the Angels of East Africa rescue organization.
While technically not a “Christian” movie, Preacher preaches an inspiring message. It takes a route not followed by Christian film makers, and for that reason, many Christians will stay home instead of watching this film. This is a shame as Preacher shows a much more realistic portrayal of an imperfect person turning to salvation but is still a flawed human being like the rest of us.
Director Marc Forster, known for Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland, chooses to portray the surroundings in East Africa as they were. It is a violent movie, but not to the extreme. It isn’t larger than life. Just like in the real world, there is plenty of foul language, especially in the beginning of the film, but it only serves to show the true change in Sam’s character when he becomes a Christian. What is most refreshing is that how realistic the whole story is played out. In the beginning of the film, the family lives in a small worn out mobile home and then moves into a much nicer home, but not overly nice. The family still struggles with money. They still fight from time to time. Things aren’t perfect. The controversial film also takes on the debate questioning if violence only serves to create more violence. From what I can tell, these children don’t stand a chance without Sam.
Preacher compounds more than 30 years into a 2 hour film, although it is hard to tell since nobody but Paige, Sam’s daughter, ages. Butler does an amazing job of hiding his Scottish accent. He shares the screen with Michelle Monaghan who plays his no-nonsense wife, Lynn. Monaghan plays her strong, able to stand her own ground against her sometimes abusive husband. Kathy Baker is understated as Sam’s mother who never stopped praying for him. In some ways, she is the little old lady we all know, but is stronger than they let on. Madeline Carroll plays Sam’s daughter Paige who struggles with thoughts that her father loves the children in Africa more than herself.
Machine Gun Preacher is difficult to watch at times and is compounded by the fact that is all true and this situation in Africa still exists today. It also challenges the viewer to wonder if they are following their true calling or not.
Cast: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, Kathy Baker, Souleymane Sy Savane, Madeline Carroll
Jeffrey Totey is a pop culture enthusiast, founder of the Writer of Pop website, a future screenwriter (aren’t we all?) and former director of Acts of God Drama Troupe in Everett, Washington. He is a student of television, movies and more. He has written six full length plays and numerous sketches.