Machine Gun Preacher (2011)
Directed by Marc Forster
Hold on to your heartstrings, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. “Kony 2012: Part 2” hit YouTube just a few short days ago, but even before its predecessor came Machine Gun Preacher, the film by director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) starring Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan. Based on the inspiring true story of ex-con Sam Childers, Machine Gun Preacher relies on its reality when its quality struggles. When Childers (Butler) is released from jail, he finds his wife (Monaghan) a recent convert to Christianity. Aching to shed his violent and sinful past, Childers takes the plunge and baptizes himself at the local church (a passionately emotional scene) and follows in her footsteps. After a tornado nearly destroys their small Pennsylvania town, Childers develops his own construction business, and when a missionary visits his church, it all begins to add up. Soon, Childers retreats to Sudan and Uganda where he is witness to the destruction and tyranny of the Lord’s Resistance Army and their leader, Joseph Kony. Childers starts an orphanage, but soon finds that the only way to stop the heinous crimes is to take justice into his own hands.
Machine Gun Preacher moves quickly, but necessarily, for much of the time, since the core of the action spans across years and continents. That’s where Machine Gun Preacher hits the same roadblocks as its true-storytelling peers. Like a tennis match, it seems, Machine Gun Preacher travels back and forth, back and forth, leaving the audience a bit dizzied. But serious subjects are covered, and Butler handles it surprisingly well. We all know Butler’s versatility—300, Phantom of the Opera, P.S. I Love You—but now he can add “biographical” to his ever-growing résumé. His and the others are truly inspired performances, and they all tell a fascinating tale. The action is sometimes alarming and unsettling, but it grabs your attention. A first time screenplay by Jason Keller wasn’t by any means extraordinary, but it was obviously enjoyed by someone—it led him to Julia Roberts’ Mirror, Mirror, in theaters now. What more can I say? In short, Machine Gun Preacher would be nothing if it weren’t true—but the fact that it is makes it an inspiring, remarkable movie to watch. And that’s the truth.