Business rating: 2 / 5 stars
Star cast: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, Madeline Carroll, Souleymane Sy Savane.
What’s Good: Gerard Butler’s performance; the realistic yet heart-rending depiction of the conflict in Sudan; the inspirational message of the film; the well-shot action sequences; some superb dialogues.
What’s Bad: The undue length of the film; the unexplained and undocumented changes in Sam’s character as the story moves along; the absence of a conclusion to the drama.
Verdict: Machine Gun Preacher is a good film but it will do below-average business in India because of its unconventional subject.
Loo break: None.
Watch or Not?: Watch Machine Gun Preacher for Gerard Butler’s fine performance and the action scenes.
Relativity and Virgin Produced’s Machine Gun Preacher is the story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), a crook and a drug addict, who, one day, realises that he can’t continue living the way he has been, if he has to stay alive and take care of his God-fearing wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan), mother, Daisy (Kathy Baker), and young daughter, Paige (Madeline Carroll). Sam starts working as a construction worker and starts believing in God when he attends a church service at the insistence of his wife. In a few years, Sam is a reformed, hardworking man, making a lot of money from his construction firm. He also helps his childhood friend and junkie, Donnie (Michael Shannon), get rid of his addiction to drugs.
One day, a pastor from Africa lectures at Sam’s church, inspiring Sam to go on a field trip to Sudan in an effort to try and help rebuild houses as a part of a Christian mission. But when he smells adventure, Sam breaks away from his group and drifts into a strife-torn area, where warring Sudanese factions murder at will for gaining control of the nation. Sam is escorted by one armed rebel, Deng (Souleymane Sy Savane). Once there, Sam witnesses the plight of the Sudanese children, many of whom come out of the bushes in the night to the nearest shelter where there is light in an effort to save themselves from the murderous men who kill at will. That night, Sam makes sure that as many kids are accommodated in his room as possible. The next morning, he comes face-to-face with horror as he sees village after village burnt and hundreds of men, women and children killed. He also witnesses the death of a minor as he runs over a landmine.
Although Sam returns to the US, he is shaken from inside. He decides to build a church in his town, a church that would take in and bless sinners like him. He also decides to build an orphanage in Sudan with his own money. Soon, Sam starts going back and forth to Sudan, borrowing and begging for money in the US, to complete the orphanage in Sudan, where he accommodates, feeds and takes care of hundreds of children. Soon, Sam also realises that he cannot protect the children without taking up arms against the oppressors and thus, he joins hands with Deng and the rebels. He is so good at fighting and killing that he soon becomes the local rebels’ gun-slinging leader. His fame spreads far and wide in Sudan, and people start calling him the ‘white preacher’.
Soon, Sam’s trips to his family become rarer and shorter as he starts getting more and more angry about the situation in Sudan. His family, which has so far stood by him through all ups and downs, starts questioning his motives when he has a drunken brawl in a bar one night. Sam sells off his construction business to buy one more vehicle to rescue kids in Sudan. He leaves his wife and teenage girl helpless and goes to Sudan to his other life. What happens next?
Machine Gun Preacher Review: Script Analysis
Jason Keller’s story, inspired by the real life of one Sam Childers, who is still in Sudan helping orphans, is very inspirational and dramatic. The screenplay, also penned by Keller, is very entertaining and engaging. Scenes of Sam’s indulgence shock the audience as do post-massacre scenes in Sudan. The audience is also moved to tears at the sight of the Sudanese children’s sufferings and therefore, they rejoice when Sam starts fighting to save the children’s lives. In a way, the film depicts how a single man’s determination can change the lives of many people, who are not even related to him. The action sequences thrill the audience, especially when Sam takes charge of the rebels. The dialogues are very well-written, especially in scenes where Sam preaches in his church in the US.
However, two things stand out as the low points – firstly, the transformation of Sam from a criminal to a God-fearing man and again, from a God-fearing man to an angry mercenary seems quite sudden as the screenplay skips across periods of many years in Sam’s life, at least a couple of times (something that is evident from seeing Paige, Sam’s daughter, grow up as the drama progresses). Secondly, the fact that the screenplay keeps moving from the US (where Sam is shown preaching at his church, or begging for funds) to Sudan (where he is managing the orphanage and fighting), slows down the pace of the narrative and makes the film seem longer than it really is.
Machine Gun Preacher Review: Star Performances
Gerard Butler towers above all in the role of Sam Childers. He is very believable as the bunkum junkie as well as the crusading messiah. His muscled body and determined gait add value to his character. Michelle Monaghan impresses as Sam’s wife. She delivers a fine performance. Michael Shannon (as Donnie) is competent in a small role. Madeline Carroll (as Sam’s daughter Paige) is natural. Souleymane Sy Savane (as Deng) underplays beautifully. Kathy Baker (as Sam’s mother) and others support well.
Machine Gun Preacher Review: Direction & Technical Aspects
Marc Forster’s direction is good. He manages to make the dramatic scenes impactful. However, he ought to have made the climax more conclusive in order to satiate the audience’s curiosity. Asche & Spencer and Thad Spencer’s background score goes with the mood of the film. Roberto Schaefer’s cinematography is very good. Editing, by Matt Chesse, is alright.
Machine Gun Preacher Review: The Last Word
On the whole, Machine Gun Preacher is a good fare but which can’t expect to do great business in India.