Sam Childers is a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been forced to become soldiers.
Year 1, Day 158
BEFORE: The school year is wrapping up and I can almost see the end. Just two presentations to go and I’m pretty much home free. But to continue this marathon, and procrastinating my projects, Machine Gun Preacher will take my attention for a little over two hours. I remember enjoying the trailer and was very interested for this film’s release last year but never ended up seeing it. The film was a critical and commercial failure so maybe I made the right choice not seeing it. I guess I’ll find out tonight.
AFTER: You may have seen the Kony 2012 video that was released earlier this year. If you saw that documentary or are otherwise familiar with the fighting going on in Uganda and Sudan, about half the film will be familiar to you. The other half focuses on Sam Childers who is reformed man that helps orphans and abducted children in the affected countries. The interest level is certainly present in the content matter but it lacks structure and pacing in between scenes.
As I’ve said before about based-on-true-story films before, there isn’t as much freedom story wise to invent things and create new scenes to help further the story. With Machine Gun Preacher the biggest problem was the believability. At the story’s core is Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) who is a drug addict and gun-loving mess. But he changes from this jail-ridden lifestyle into a believer in God and eventually a preacher himself who goes to Africa to give to others. That’s the true story, it can’t be altered. My problem falls with how this story progresses in the film. In the film things seem to happen almost instantaneously as if Childers went from a delinquent to a believer in the blink of an eye. Now this may very well be true, but I have a feeling in real life it took a while for him to think about his life, and what he was doing with it, before these big changes occurred. Marc Forster, the director, did not spend enough time on the period of change (read: time of emotional turmoil) as he did with what happened after the change took place (still plenty of emotional turmoil but not as much).
Based on the reviews of the film I was not expecting Machine Gun Preacher to be good at all. While it wasn’t perfect, the film did have some interesting and entertaining qualities to it. The civil wars and child soldiers that are present in Africa today are big issues in today’s world and if you want to learn more about it, Machine Gun Preacher and the aforementioned Kony 2012 video are great sources of information. But aside from that, Machine Gun Preacher had some structural flaws that hold a fairly good story from a higher potential.
RATING: 3 out of 5