You can pretty much tell a film deserves an R rating when the first line from the main character is, “Y’all go f*** yourselves now, ok?” That and children being killed on screen, often by children.
With a heavy dose of white trash at the onset, Machine Gun Preacher feels a little déjà vu of The Fighter to start off. Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) and his then girlfriend Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) demonstrate a life of hardship and bad choices as they rough it out in a mobile home after Sam was released from. While incarcerated, Lynn, a former stripper and junkie, got her act together and found God, a prospect biker addict Sam simply couldn’t wrap his head around at first.
Click on the slideshow to the left to see production stills from MGP
But after Hurricane Katrina turned their world upside down, Sam made a business for himself in doing post-disaster construction and renovation. He was good at it and built the business so he and (now wife) Lynn could have a better life for their daughter Paige. He walked away from his addictions and one day went to church with the family and became a baptized Christian. After a preacher came and asked members of the congregation to help with their efforts to build schools and churches in Sudan, Sam decided to go down there himself and help out.
He then came back and built a nondenominational church in their town called the Shekinah Fellowship Church, which would be open and welcoming to people from all walks of life, even those who had done unsavory things in their past. Sam became the preacher there.
Sam began to travel back to Sudan regularly, becoming engrossed in aiding the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the fight against Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Sam and his newfound Sudanese soldier friends attempt to save as many victims as possible, rescuing them as orphans and child soldiers, protecting them from sexual slavery and a life in the militia.
Sudan, under extreme turmoil and violence, plagued with rampant malaria and cholera, was a place where people were surprised to see the ongoing aid of an outsider, one they began to refer to as the “White Rambo” or the “Machine Gun Preacher”.
Unfortunately, as Sam got more and more involved, he found himself having a hard time relating to his family and friends, who were running things in his absence and patiently waiting for him at home.
He also began to go crazy under the pressure of fighting the LRA and feeling like he could never fix all the problems in Sudan or save all the children. His rage was perceived by his Sudanese friends as a wish to die and they no longer trusted him. His daughter felt he loved the kids he saved more than he loved his own family. His wife and he fought over the money he used for his efforts in Sudan.
The most important character in this film is Sam Childers, played by Gerard Butler. Although he makes a valiant effort to take on a more serious, dramatic role-after all, his character is based on a living subject-it’s very hard to fully grasp him as such, particularly when trying to see a typically classy Scottish man’s likeness to a self-proclaimed hillbilly, and when remembering former movies such as The Bounty Hunter, The Ugly Truth, and P.S. I Love You. I think Butler’s got it in him to make the transition from characters where he plays a funnyman sex symbol and uber masculine guy to those that garner more respect and attention. I hope that we will see him do more films like this so we can start to see him and appreciate him in that light.
Machine Gun Preacher is NOT appropriate for children, has very shocking content, and is overall a disturbing, yet eye-opening account of what is going on in Sudan and how one person, even the most unlikely of persons, can make a difference. Whether you agree with Childers’s tactics or not, he at least deserves respect for kicking his addictions (well over a decade sober now), offering his help, and selflessly giving more of himself than most people could ever commit to.
Machine Gun Preacheris based on Childers’s book “Another Man’s War”. Click here to find it at a metro Colorado Tattered Cover.
Click here for Denver Metro showtimes for Machine Gun Preacher.
Click here to read what Sam Childers had to say to viewers when he was in Denver to promote the film.
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