Film Review: Story Too Broad to Execute in ‘Machine Gun Preacher’

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CHICAGO – When one movie has an ex-con, drug retribution violence, his religious conversion, his building of a church, his preaching, his trip to Southern Sudan in Africa, his opening of an orphanage and his family, then it’s too big a story to tell. Therein lies the challenge for “Machine Gun Preacher.”

Despite a performance of sheer will from Gerard Butler, the loose structure of all that is going on handicaps any true development of character. Besides Butler, the rest of the cast is window dressing, coming on stage to aid or deny him, and then slipping away for several acts until they’re asked to come back and do it again. This is an amazing true story, an American story, but telling it all at once unfortunately subtracts all the juice from its parts.

Sam Childers (Butler) is a hellcat who is let go, in the beginning of the film, from an incarceration. He goes back to his trailer home in Pennsylvania to his kid and his stripper wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan). He is has violent anger, and is not done with dealing drugs and raising hell. His best friend Donnie (Michael Shannon) is his enabler in the pursuit, and soon they are dealing with a revenge beating and possible murder.

When that situation magically takes care of itself, Sam Childers has a religious conversion. He quits partying, starts a successful construction business and hunkers down with his family. His conversion also compels him to preaching, and he builds a church to welcome reprobates like himself. When he goes on a mission in Africa, he gets involved with the genocide in Southern Sudan. He notices the kids left behind from this slaughter, and makes it his life’s work to build an orphanage and take care of as many of those children as he can.

“Machine Gun Preacher” continues its limited release in Chicago on September 30th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Gerard Butler as Sam Childers, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, Souleymane Sy Savane and Kathy Baker. Screenplay by Jason Keller, directed by Marc Forster. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Machine Gun Preacher”

The Preacher’s Wife: Gerald Butler as Sam and Michelle Monaghan as Lynn in ‘Machine Gun Preacher’
he Preacher’s Wife: Gerard Butler as Sam and Michelle Monaghan as Lynn in ‘Machine Gun Preacher’
Photo Credit: Phil Bray for © 2011 MGP Productions

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Machine Gun Preacher”

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