I knew this movie would at the very least be inspiring, but I also knew it would probably make me cry, which is why I avoided seeing it in the theater. What I didn’t expect was it to make me so angry. Machine Gun Preacher is based on the real life of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) former addict and convict who found God and a mission. That mission was to fight to save the lives of children in Northern Uganda/Southern Sudan, many times literally. Childers is not a very likeable man from the beginning. He’s unflinching and unyielding in his beliefs. Whether telling his wife when he first comes home from prison that she needs to go back to stripping to make more money, or defending his fight fire with fire tactics in Sudan; many times I found myself cheering him on while at the same time wanting to smack him.
This movie is not only hard to watch, due to it’s subject matter but because it’s not your straightforward feel good movie. Yes, Childers is saving children in the Sudan but is it the right decision to be part of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army? And can you be the hero if you resort to violence and begin to completely ignore your wife and child in the United States for your children in Africa? There is one scene where his daughter asks if she can rent a limo for a dance along with her friends, they are splitting the cost. He’s so wrapped up in finding more money for his Sudan project that he reacts almost violently to her. She didn’t ask to sacrifice her life to his cause.
I think the reason this movie didn’t get as many accolades and box office numbers it deserved is because of the “hero” of the story. We like our hero’s pure, and if they don’t start out this way then they should darn sure be close to it by the end. There is redemption in Childers when he leaves his life of drugs and crime, but he doesn’t become a saint. Well not in the way we would consider. He has the same personality as before he found god, it’s just geared in a different way. And even though he does a lot of good, his ego and increasing unwillingness to listen to others results in some tragic consequences. The fact that the movie doesn’t shy away from those consequences, no matter how horrific, is the number one reason I love this movie.
This movie has great acting, an intriguing storyline, great visuals, and is definitely a must see. Just don’t expect the stereotypical and I think you will still be moved.