Review: Machine Gun Preacher
Machine Gun Preacher is a true story based on the life of Sam Childers. At first Childers was involved in a biker gang as he was also a drug dealer. Sometime in 1992, he explains that he had some sort of revelation that led to him finding God and changing his life around. A few years later he took it upon himself to do some real good by going to Sudan and help out where he could. In this trip he found more evil than he expected as over 30,000 children had been abducted by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The children that are often taken are then turned into soldiers or sex slaves until they are rescued, killed or escape. Due to all of this chaos, thousands of children have become orphans. Due to all of this, Sam Childers and his wife Lynn had created the Angel of East Africa , the Children's Village in Southern Sedan where they house and educate any children that they find. This film details Sam's salvation and his experiences in Southern Sudan.
The film begins as we see Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) released from prison as he is now at this point an alcoholic drug abuser biker. He finds that his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) has changed as she has now found Jesus and become a devout Christian effectively quitting her stripper job. This angers Sam despite how much better of a job she is working now, setting him off to go back to see his old friends at a bar. It is there that he finds Donnie (Michael Shannon) who like him is a drunk and drug abuser. Sam goes into the bathroom with a friend of Donnie's who supplies him with drugs that he then gets high with. Following this Sam and Donnie go on a joy ride and pick up a hitchhiker that puts a knife to Donnie's throat. Sam saves his friend but stabs the hitchhiker repeatedly, and when he gets home to wash the blood out of his clothes he has a realization of how far off the rails he has gone. The next day Lynn takes Sam to their local church where he is then reborn.
Sam then changes his life and distances himself from his old friends as he becomes a construction worker which leads to making his own company. He then hears about the chaos in Africa and decides he could do some real good over there. He takes it upon himself to head into the war zone when he does reach Africa, he is then troubled when he sees firsthand the kind of chaos that happens there. The more troubling sight is the fact that nothing is being done to help the children that are suffering. He takes it upon himself to do something and creates a orphanage for the children as he explains that it came to him through a vision from God. He fights off the LRA and protects the children with freedom fighters to the point that the children and the LRA begin to call him "the white preacher or Machine Gun Preacher." He spends an increasingly large amount of time in Sudan helping these children that he has no relation to or bind to, that then begins to separate him from his family. When he begins to realize how much of an uphill battle it is against the LRA, and how many children are being lost he then becomes lost himself.
The film carries a heavy message about the tragedies of Southern Sudan under the tyranny of Joseph Kony and the LRA but suffers from poor characterization and pacing. The script and direction is a bit off as it turns into more of an action orientated film when it really should be a heart wrenching drama. Most would expect that it would follow Sam Childers spiritual journey, and it does to some extent early on which is when the film really shines, but then gets lost when he travels to Southern Sudan and becomes this "Machine Gun Preacher." Gerard Butler stars as Sam Childers, and does an admirable job as he does just enough to come off as a good guy but with a little bit of an edge. Michelle Monaghan does a terrific job as Lynn, despite not being in the film for too long.