Back in 2009, I remember when Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke was released, I sat on a cinema screen surprised to see it nearly full of 13-15-year-old adolescent male teens. It wasn’t long before the excited faces turned into shock expecting to see some over the top drivel WWE dishes out so I wasn’t surprised at the end of the film to find that only a few remained. To me that was a lesson not to judge a film by its title but to read the description it’s a mistake a lot of people make these days and the same could be said about Marc Forster’s latest directorial film Machine Gun Preacher.Anyone expecting a grindhouse film probably is severely disappointed too with this film too though at times we do get a scene which is graphic in nature upsetting as well.
Machine Gun Preacher stars Gerard Butler as Sam Childers a real life biker, criminal, drug user, a father and within 5 minutes of the film we see a freed Childers go back to his old life he had before a stint in jail. Sam raises hell with his best buddy Donnie (Michael Shannon). but one night of havoc scares the living daylights which makes Sam turn his faithful wife (Michelle Monaghan) who also has changed her life by trading the strip club for the bible and it’s that bible that helps Sam find God.
Now he’s sorted himself out, Sam builds a successful construction company going places he now wants to go on a spiritual one, not one of the annoying people on there on doorsteps but selling the word of God in war-torn Sudan creating an orphanage for the kids. Whilst his construction skills are a godsend to the charity as well as the kids it isn’t long before Sam picks up the habits of his old ways picking up a machine gun to take on the local warlords.
Machine Gun Preacher is one those films at times does n’t know what it really wants to be, Action film? A Gritty drama? One thing we can say is Marc Forster certainly knows the true meaning of depressing realism especially after making a film like Monster’s Ball . When you actually look at it the imbalance isn’t really a big issue as it gives a good insight how nasty Sam Childers was but don’t expect to delve into why Childers became a bad man we just have to accept that he was and can still be a bad apple. On an emotional level, you don’t get a true reflection of Childer’s character, though you get that impression he’s like a little naughty uncontrollable with a bad temperament told to sit in the corner with his face to the wall.
What lets this film down is its tendency to slip into that stereotypical Hollywood sensationalism when reality drifts into fantasy when Childers becomes that one man army giving his best John Rambo impression when taking on the might of the Sudanese rebels. Like it or not these scenes are essential to show the dangerous situations Childer’s gets into plus how easily aroused he gets that makes him go off the boil.
Performances are very strong from all parties in support with the highlight been Michael Shannon in his terrifying intense convincing portrayal of Donnie sam’s best junkie friend through him we see what life would like if Sam never found God, But Machine Preacher is the Gerard Butler show.Butler gives an imposing emotive performance which easily could be seen as the Scottish actor’s best performance ever or at least since 300 but the talk is that his next film could beat everything, Coriolanus.
Overall Machine Gun Preacher is a strong dramatic film that’s is disturbing at times as well as delivering a powerful message. Sadly at times the sluggish script, sterotypical Hollywood cliche’s but thanks to a fantastic performance from Gerard Butler that keeps us glued to the film until the end credits roll!
★★★★ | Paul Devine
Biograpghy, Drama | UK, 2011 |15|2nd November 2011 | Lionsgate Films | Dir:Marc Forster |Gerard Butler,Michelle Monaghan,Michael Shannon,Souleymane Sy Savane,Madeline Carroll