Movie Review: 6 out of 10
“Machine Gun Preacher” sounds like another grindhouse movie from Quentin Tarantino but it’s actually an inspiring true story about Sam Childers.
Gerard Butler, in what may be his best performance to date, plays Childers, a recently released convict who would never be mistaken for a hero in his early years. He’s abusive to his wife (Michelle Monaghan), he's a heroin user, robs people with a shotgun, and on one particular joyride with a friend (Michael Shannon), he winds up stabbing a hitchhiker several times then leaving him on the side of the road.
This soon becomes too much for even him to take and so he lets his born-again wife take him to church, which convinces him to work for Jesus and eventually start his own construction business as well. Hearing of missionary work in Uganda inspires him to give back and while touring Northern Sudan, he witnesses the evil being done by rebel forces; it’s hard not being heart-broken by the things done to children here. He vows to do more to help the people of Sudan, most times even putting them before his own family. Jason Keller’s screenplay doesn’t dig that deep.
Childer’s quick transformation from sinner to saint leaves more questions than it answers and his problems at home, with his family and ex-junkie friend, get brushed aside way too often.
“Preacher” isn’t so much a bio-pic as it is a hero-worship movie and so there are many scenes of Childers picking up a shotgun to fight the rebels or experiencing the pain of not being able to save as many kids as he wants, many of these scenes unfold predictably, but Butler takes on Childer’s profound compassion and dedication to the Sudanese people in moving and heartfelt ways and finds the soul of an otherwise underwhelming movie.