GERARD BUTLER MICHELLE MONAGHAN MICHAEL SHANNON KATHY BAKER
MACHINE GUN PREACHER
This film is certainly not what most people will expect. The catchy title could have been an image to get fans of action movies in the seats and, while it still might do that, the title is actually there to shield what the film is really about. From the director of Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland, Marc Forster is no stranger to critically acclaimed films or stories that push uncomfortable boundaries. Machine Gun Preacher is by far the most important and impressive performance of Gerard Butler’s career. In many ways this is a film and story that will remain with you more so than the Oscar nominated, artistic and well received Hotel Rwanda.
When Sam Childers (Butler) gets out of prison he unromantically makes love to his wife (Monaghan) before they even start the car and wants beer the moment he steps foot into their trailer in Pennsylvania. Drugs and the wrong crowd, including his best friend Donnie (Shannon), lead him down a dangerous road. With his wife Lynn in church and leading a healthy Christian lifestyle, he decides to finally make a change. That change eventually lands him across the map in the Sudan, fighting rebels and trying to protect children who have no hope. His new found faith has given him a purpose but his inability to protect all these children he encounters makes him doubt God and the reason he is there in the first place.
Forster and the producers of the film (including Butler) understand this film is a tough sale, not only with the subject matter; in the world of media and Hollywood, a film about or dealing with Christianity is not only shunned, panned or ignored, but often times made fun of. Films like Seven Days in Utopia, Soul Surfer and tons of other films with a religious message or strong Christian characters are always unpopular at the box office. Critics and audiences don’t like to be preached to. However, this film is rated very “R” first of all, contains strong violence, disturbing images, language, etc. For once a film dealing with Christianity isn’t painted as this happy go lucky hidden backwoods town like we see in most “uplifting films”. Sure, there are select audiences for movies that have a wholesome message like Soul Surfer and “Utopia”, but Machine Gun Preacher will likely affect a lot more people because it isn’t some G rated paint by the numbers.
The transformation between biker gang member to finding a “little bit” of Jesus isn’t necessarily flushed out in the most believable way. The screenplay, which is based entirely on a true story, has a rocky start, but manages to keep the audiences focus in both Sam’s conflict in Africa and back home. What’s so interesting about this character is his internal struggle; so rarely do we see someone of Christian faith presented in a movie this dynamic; “God doesn’t just call on the good”, Sam says. The film even takes an admirable hard left turn half way, challenging everything Sam thought he was fighting for. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s an effective one.
Final Thought – The most gritty film dealing with Christianity I have ever seen.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This is a movie for those who like to be inspired by feel-good stories where nothing much goes awry, and if it does, someone is always there to guide you in the right direction. And as such, the film is successful and does present a way of teaching that is highly effective (a la The Horse Whisperer) with problems that are primarily psychological. Robert Duvall as Johnny Crawford, a former golf pro with an eventful past, convincingly plays the role of the guru who just happens on the scene to rescue a conflicted young golfer Luke (played by Lucas Black) who has lost control after a botched game. Now, after smashing his car, he is stranded in the tiny town of Utopia, Texas, (pun is intended), and Johnny offers to coach him while his car is being repaired.
The approach Johnny uses with Luke is homespun with a strong dose of Zen, and helps not only his golf game, but also gives him some insight into his motivation for playing and winning the game and the role of his father in those aspirations. Then the film moves on toward a strong message that Luke needs Christianity, and implies that there is a God who is behind all things that happen in the world, particularly successes.
If this is consistent with your own beliefs, you will probably like this movie. If not, it’s probably not for you.