Swanner: Last night Brian and I saw Machine Gun Preacher. It stars Gerard Butler and deals with a man who went from criminal to hero. At least that’s how they spin it in the trailer and film. The question I have is what is a hero? The definition is “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities” so in this case I guess Sam Childers the man Butler plays is a hero but I had no love for this hero. He was a character I didn’t like or respect, good deeds or not.
Judd: A violent junkie finds The Lord, gets his life on track, builds a church for other hillbillies from Pennsylvania (as he refers to himself), goes to the Sudan and becomes a missionary. The movie has its heart in the right place, but the viewer is left to wonder if Sam Childers has his heart in the right place. He turns his back on his friends, sells everything his family has and berates his congregation for being sheep – all in the name of helping the needy children of the Sudan. Childers may be brave, but he’s hardly noble.
Swanner: If you look past the bad character and script (by newcomer Jason Keller) you have to talk about the bad film making and that lands on the shoulders of Marc Forster. You might be able to forgive the bad direction if Forster was a newcomer but this is the man that directed Finding Neverland and Quantum of Solace. It’s paced horribly and the cinematography is unforgivable. The only real plus in the movie is the acting. I didn’t like any of the characters for their ridiculous choices but the acting for what they are given was good.
Judd: I didn’t see Finding Neverland, but Quantum of Solace suffered from poor pacing as well. Machine Gun Preacher spins its wheels but never gets anywhere, and with a run time of just over two hours, the audience gets tired. Not to mention, the movie becomes repetitive. Childers saves a group of children, witnesses an atrocity, goes home to rant at his congregation, begs for money/sells something/yells at his family, goes back to Africa, rinse and repeat.
Swanner: There a very few movies that make me angry like this one did. Maybe I was channeling the rage of the main character or maybe I just hate wasting my time on awful, grueling films that may have their heart in the right spot but nothing more.
Judd: If the movie had been less repetitive and focused on the Childer’s motivations, it would have much better. At one point a medical missionary calls Childers a mercenary – and for awhile that’s what it looks like the character’s good intentions had deteriorated into, but after a game of soccer with the children all is well again. Addiction is a powerful thing and everyone knows someone who clings to those 12 Steps just a little too hard. Childers traded the needle for a bible and his family then traded his bible and family for an orphanage. Focusing on that conflict would have been compelling and more interesting to watch than what we were given.