In his best performance yet, Gerard Butler plays a troubled, complex guy who leaves his life of crime for God and becomes a real life hero in Sudan. Machine Gun Preacher is violent and, at times, hard to watch, but the story is inspirational and puts the spotlight on an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. But he is far from subtle and chooses to use a gun to get them done. The film can certainly be upsetting, especially when you see how kids in Sudan are treated and what happens if they disobey. But no matter how gruesome some parts may be, Machine Gun Preacher only shows the audience the brutal truth and the cause that Sam Childers is fighting for.
Based on a true story and directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace), Butler plays Childers, an ex-biker-gang member who decided to go to church and get clean for himself and for his wife (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter. But then their lives take a sudden change when Childers decides to go to Africa to help repair homes destroyed by the ongoing civil war. There he witnesses first-hand the unspeakable and unimaginable horrors that happen due to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Childers really takes notice of what is happening with the children and the suffering they are put through. Soon, he decides to build an orphanage right in the middle of the war zone. It is a place where these kids can escape and be protected, but that isn’t satisfying enough for Childers. He starts to go on rescue missions in to enemy territory to save every kidnapped child he can.
At the same time, Machine Gun Preacher tells another story about Childers and his family. Every time he returns from Sudan, he feels more and more lost at home. He cannot get what he has witnessed over in Africa out of his head. It has caused him to change his perspective completely. His great work over in Sudan begins to take a toll not only on his family, but himself as well. While he is fighting for the kids in one part of the world, he is losing his grip in another part of the world: His home.
Childers practically lives two separate lives, and they come crashing ahead which causes him to stumble off of the right path and allows hate back into his heart. Childers seems to always be in a battle in some shape, form, or fashion. Whether it be with himself or the war in Africa, he is always struggling and he seeks for that balance and peace in his life. It is a tough thing to achieve, but Childers and his family somehow are able to find it.
Butler seems to be born for this part. He gives everything he has to the role of Childers and pours out his heart and soul like we have never seen before. And if I was betting man, I bet the real-life Childers couldn’t be more proud or appreciative. Machine Gun Preacher isn’t just an action movie. It is a lot more than that. It is a drama that will make you cheer, get angry, or perhaps even shed a tear. It is a painful yet fascinating journey of one man’s salvation and the sacrifices that had to be made in order to make a difference.