The Twenty-First Century

Machine Gun Preacher [2011]

If you like Gerard Butler, and I do despite the horrible career choices induced by “Gamer”, “Law Abiding Citizen” and the God awful “The Bounty Hunter”, “Machine Gun Preacher” is not the antidote to his recent bad choices. It’s a forgettable drama that traps Butler in the role of Sam Childers, a reckless ex-con and drug addict who, upon his release from prison, continues his destructive behavior, until he hits rock bottom, finds Jesus and decides to travel to Africa and build a mission church. Once there, Childers is exposed to the horrors of the civil war, especially the killings and abductions of young children. At first glance, “Machine Gun Preacher” might sound like one of those graphic novel adaptations, especially with Butler in the lead, kicking ass. But that’s not really what the movie is about. At heart, the subject couldn’t be more serious. But with Butler in the lead, I just couldn’t buy it. This is not to say that the movie doesn’t have some good attributes, because it does. The story covers a lot of grounds, and has many powerful moments. Butler gives it his best, but there isn’t much nuance in his character. He loves his family and wants to be there for his daughter; yet he travels halfway across the world and abandons her. I was appalled, in particular, at the awkwardness of Mark Forster’s direction, repeatedly showing kids being murdered. I can understand the message behind these horrific scenes, but at some point, I felt a strong disconnection. Instead of being pulled in, my mind started to wander.That’s never a good sign. I hope Butler, Michael Shannon (who has a forgettable role here as Butler’s buddy), and Forster turn their attention to projects that are worthy of their time and talent. “Machine Gun Preacher” left me with nothing except regret that I’d invested the time to watch it.

Rating: 2/4

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