Machine Gun Preacher is based on the real life story of the controversial Sam Childers; a half preacher half mercenary (former) drug addict that gets out of prison and decides to change his life. Director Marc Forster shoots the film pretty close to Childers’ life in terms of overall feel, which leaves you wondering if you should be cheering or hating a guy that abandons his own family in order to help save others. Gerard Butler and Michael Shannon provide two well-acted performances, but they mostly don’t stick, like most of the film. Machine Gun Preacher is about as unbalanced and lacking of direction as Childers’ real life.
Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is far from being an innocent boy scout. He’s just been released from prison and after having sex with his ex-stripper wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) he ventures to the local bar to catch up on times with his best friend Donnie (Michael Shannon). Almost minutes after entering the bar he goes back to his old ways of doing drugs and robbing people for drugs or for money to buy more drugs, but his wife has had enough.
She’s found the lord and she asks Sam to do the same. After a few cold church visits he finally sees the light, which results in an instant desire to want to preach and help others. He starts out small time by building a church for the local community, but shortly after he embarks on a mission to save homeless children in Sudan. He takes a brief trip with the church, but realizes that things aren’t going to change unless he does something about it, so he starts building refugee camps and eventually he becomes a mercenary.
Things get blurry as Sam’s life takes unsuspected turns, leaving him full of doubts and questions. The road to forgiveness and acceptance isn’t an easy one, especially Childers’ road, but Sam tries his hardest at doing what he thinks is right.
Machine Gun Preacher is kind of a tough film to judge, because you’re not sure where to discredit a film for its telling of such a story. From what I’ve read the actual Sam Childers is a bit of dick, which means Marc Forster‘s direction and Gerard Butler‘s performance are spot on, because both make Sam look like one of the meanest and unfriendliest people around town, which is unbalanced when he arrives in Sudan and suddenly starts helping others.
His transformation almost feels superficial as he preaches how much the lord needs his follows to do something and not say something. It’s almost as if Sam fills himself up with so much bullshit that he begins to buy into it and from that point he tries making others fall for his own trap. It doesn’t really make for a dynamic story, full of rich characters or even likable ones, but it does make for an authentic story that tells everything 100% truthfully, even when it could have benefited from a few white lies.
The story never reaches a climax or a downfall; it just follows Sam’s life, which is normally out of control and wild. He gets sadder on some days than others, but in the end it all leads to the same place. He misses his family and never wants to stop fighting, no matter how many people he hurts, kills or pisses off. It’s not all that inspiring, but it’s kind of interesting watching the character breakdown and become a monster of sorts, filled with equal parts of good and bad.
Machine Gun Preacher isn’t about washing your sins away and becoming one with God, it’s more or less about learning to accept what you’ve done and learning to live with the decisions you’ve made; good or bad. If you think channeling God is the best path then feel free to, but if you’d rather just take action and try and help make the world a better place than no one is going to stand in your way.
Machine Gun Preacher comes to Blu-Ray with a very grainy 1080p video transfer. It’s no doubt a director’s decision, but a weird one at that. The warm colors of Sudan don’t exactly reach out and grab you and most of the city life looks dirty and disgusting. I usually like transfers that are a little rough around the edges, much like the characters in the film, but this one just looks flat and bland, with no real purpose.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track unfortunately suffers a similar fate. Dialogue is quiet and muffled through the front channels, while gunfire and explosions pad the back channels. There’s not a lot of even distribution among the channels, which makes Machine Gun Preacher sound just as unbalanced as it looks.
The disc comes with the following special features:
- Machine Gun Preacher – A Discussion with Marc Forster (HD)
- Making the Music for Machine Gun Preacher (HD)
- “The Keeper” Music Video by Chris Cornell (HD)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- Sneak Peeks (HD)
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
There’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me after watching Machine Gun Preacher. Part of me enjoyed Michael Shannon and Gerard Butler‘s performances, which were equally intimidating and eye-opening, but also one-dimensional in terms of character progression and relapse. Everything happens beat for beat like you’d expect it to, with Childers being a little bit nastier than you’d hope for.
The film’s overall message doesn’t really hit hard, which leaves the whole experience without much point. Marc Forster knows how to direct a film from a technical level, but he doesn’t really know how to get a story off the pages of a script and on to the big screen with life. Machine Gun Preacher feels very lifeless and it doesn’t look all that great either.
The Blu-Ray has its fair share of bumps, like an audio track that doesn’t excite and a video transfer that needs a good cleaning. The special features give you a look at Forster’s intentions as well as some of the music that was composed.
Machine Gun Preacher when stripped down to its core is just another telling of a man with a remarkable story, but a shitty personality. It’s not moving and not all that strong when you start figuring out what kind of person Childers really is. His intentions are almost always good, but the way he goes about getting there isn’t particularly of good sport.