Why Don't You Fight the Evil in this Place Your Way, and Let Me Fight It Mine

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)
A Review by Ben Hunter
3½ Out of 5 Stars
September 23, 2011

"Get to the Point Ben!"  This is a wonderfully told true story about religion & minorities, two areas that Hollywood always seems to overlook.  The ending could’ve been more conclusive and the story could’ve been more compelling or thrilling but the story that was told and the ending that was given were sufficient and entertaining enough.  A must see for adults.  Not a typical, preachy, Christian movie.  Far from a religious film in my opinion, more so one that just has religious aspects within it. 

“I remember my parents in their sleep.  My father was big like you.  They shot him.  The rebels gave me a club and told me if I didn’t kill my mother they’ll shoot my brother and me; and so I killed my mother.  If we allow ourselves to be full of hate in the world, we must not let them take our hearts.”

Spoken by a little Sudanese boy in Africa who lives in silence with an extremely traumatized state of being because of the 400,000 murders to the children in his country, in addition to the 40,000 abductions who are beaten and raped.  The rest of the surviving children that haven’t been lucky enough to escape to then hide in the wilderness are forced to join the “Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)” because of the war of religion in the area between Muslims and Christians; where they are forced to fight the battles themselves and ease the concept of accepted violence into their psyche.  This is the world that Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) entered.

Sam was a bad biker, bad in the bad way to use biker.  A tough guy with a dose of toughness more than your typical one, a drug dealer and consumer, fresh out of prison and looking for a fight; a bad boy.  This brought extreme violence within his life and was the eye opener, his wake up call for things to change. 

His girlfriend Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) had stopped stripping, which Sam didn’t like.  But once his eye opening experience took place he decided to attend his girlfriend’s church and seek a little clarity.  It was there where he became a Christian, and was baptized to proclaim that to the world. 

While in church Sam learned of the crusader missionary outreach in Sudan and with work dwindling at home, he decided to take action for his family.  After deciding to keep work in the missionary ministry going as well as at home, Sam’s heart reaches out to the children there in Sudan in dire need of help.  After tired of being on the receiving end of the battles, feeling helpless to the casualties, Sam decides to take matters into his own hands and fights the war in the way he sees best.  He protects the kids with violence against the LRA while finding new kids along the way with his skills learned with guns as a bad boy on the streets of Pennsylvania.  Word spreads throughout Sudan and the surrounding parts of Africa about a white man who preaches to others about Jesus and fights fire with fire for the children he saves, earning him the nickname “The Machine Gun Preacher”. 

What a powerful true story!  Director Marc Forster definitely has redeemed himself from the last James Bond film he ruined.  It’s rare that Hollywood puts out good stories about religion or minorities.  So I was happy to experience one about both these major areas that are commonly overlooked and in this film are utilized with top of the line filmmaking production (A list actors, filmmakers, etc).  But like any subject of a touchy manner, Hollywood and the people behind this film couldn’t come to terms on proper distribution of this product.  So it was briefly in theaters, the home entertainment marketing campaign was minimal, and very few people have had the opportunity to witness its powerful message. 

Gerard Butler does an amazing job as the crusading missionary, taking charge in the war in Sudan sort of as the bad boy version of Jesus.  I was really moved by his performance and could feel the anger in his heart, the pain he felt in his surroundings, and was with him every step of the way when he fought to get things done for his crusading mission. 

The supporting roles of Michelle Monaghan, Kathy Baker, and the ever-talented Michael Shannon were nicely done.  I particularly enjoyed experiencing Sam’s relationship with his family, in particular with his daughter Paige played so innocently by the young Madeline Carroll.  Butler had a nice cast to support him as he led the film in a proper direction. 

The ending could’ve been more conclusive, but with this true storyline it would’ve been disrespectful in a sense to dramatically change things.  Still, some slight changes in the writing could’ve been made to get this story alive and pulsating to keep our interest and get it to top notch status as an AMAZING story.  It’s just a “pretty good” one.  I wanted more suspenseful drama, which would lead to more dramatic moments, which would really intensify the dramatic moments that are already in the story.  

This film, in my opinion, isn’t a religious film.  It’s just a good film with religious aspects within it.  I don’t think it’s a preachy Christian movie with an alternative motive like most in this category.  I think it’s just a lens into the world of Christianity.  This is great because this is how I think Christians should attack the film industry with their mission to spread the good news.  So this was one of the film’s strong points and not a weak one as some might think because it only caters to a specific target of consumers.  Quite the contrary, this film is artsy, intriguing, so it caters to anyone looking for quality in the movies they view or those who love a good artsy film.  I wouldn’t call it an action flick, but a dramatic one with some action throughout. 

With controversy over Sam’s methods of how he fights the war, it sparks a good question.  His heart is in the right place to save the children, but at what cost?  Did he go too far?  Are his methods counteracting his beliefs, making him the very evil he still tries to defeat to this day?

“For me to sit here and give all kinds of excuses to make it right, I can’t do.  But what I want to ask everyone out there, everyone that has a child, everyone that has a brother or a sister.  If your child or your family member was abducted today, if a mad man came in, a terrorist came in, abducted your family member or your child and if I said to you I can bring your child home …  does it matter how I bring them home?” – Sam Childers

Machine Gun Preacher
Drama, 129 Minutes, R
Written by: Jason Keller
Directed by: Marc Forster
Cast: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Kathy Baker, Madeline Carroll, & Michael Shannon

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