Machine Gun Preacher



By Gary Murray


Starring Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon


Written by Jason Keller


Directed by Marc Forster


Running time 127 min


MPAA Rating R


Selig Film Rating Matinee


Some movies just become a part of the lexicon of pop culture even before they are released.  There are films that generate so much pre-release buzz that one knows details even before the first image is projected on the screen.  Then there are films like Machine Gun Preacher that fly so low to the ground that no one knows much about the release until it makes it to the local cinema. 


Based on a true story, Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is a biker just out of prison.  When he gets back to his trailer, he discovers his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) has turned against her evil ways and found Jesus.  She goes to church every Sunday and has a respectful job.  Sam wants nothing to do with that and immediately goes back to his old ways of drinking and drugs.  After a night of recklessness, he decides to follow his wife to a service.  The spirit of the Lord takes hold and he becomes Born Again.


Sam becomes a family man and turns away from his old buddy Donnie (Michael Shannon) a junkie who needs help himself.  Soon, Sam has his own construction company and home in the suburbs. As he struggles to make a life for himself, a visiting minister comes into the church telling the congregation about the plight of the people of Sudan.  Touched by the story, Sam decides to go to Africa to see for himself.


Once in the country, he sees how the barbaric civil war has devastated the people.  There are hundreds of orphans and no one to take care of them.  Back on US soil, Sam has a vision to create a church for people like him and an orphanage for the children.  The story of Machine Gun Preacher is of the struggles on two continents—the struggle to keep the orphanage in Africa going and the struggle to keep his family together.  It becomes an almost Job like test of faith.


Director Marc Forster shows us a fully formed character with Sam Childers.  Forster doesn’t shy away from some of the more debased aspects of this man, giving hope that anyone can find redemption.  The idea that you have to hit rock bottom before one can rise is shown in graphic detail.  This is not an easy film to watch, with deaths and blood almost from the first frame but it is a film that ultimately delivers hope.


Gerard Butler seems out of his element as a Pennsylvania biker but he finds the emotional core needed for the role.  He is a rough and tumble kind of guy, as comfortable preaching the Word as he is brandishing a weapon to save children.  There is a focused determination with the performance that is winning.


Michael Shannon is one of those actors who seems to be in a ton of films but is not a household name.  Here, in the sidekick role, he shows some major character arc.  These smaller roles sometimes come across underwritten and weak, but Shannon delivers a major work with a minor part.


Who couldn’t adore Michelle Monaghan?  She’s a performer who brings warmth to every part she plays.  As the catalyst for Sam’s redemption, she becomes his rock to lean on.  They say that behind every good man is a good woman guiding him and this portrayal proves the theory. 


Machine Gun Preacher is a very good movie about a subject few know about.  It shows both the unseen causalities of war and the salvation of the individual.  The film is a Christian film without being overtly preachy.   It is one of those early Oscar buzz flicks that usually become ignored by the time the ballots are sent out.  Machine Gun Preacher is solid entertainment with something sorely lacking in Hollywood, a positive message.





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