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|Review: Machine Gun Preacher|
|Written by Selina Pearson|
|Wednesday, 02 November 2011 07:39|
Director: Marc Forster
Sam Childers (Butler) is a big hairy biker who returns from prison to his wife Lynn (Monaghan), bent on continuing his wicked ways. He starts by berating her for quitting her job as a stripper. She’s found Jesus instead - and the Lord don't like women taking their clothes off. Then Sam carries on taking drugs, drinking and beating people up with his best bud, Donnie (Shannon).
Eventually, something gives and Sam decides to go straight. Lynn introduces him to Jesus, and you know what? He sells his motorbike, sobers up, and starts his own building business just in time for hurricane season. Does it feel contrived? A bit. It is based on real events? Actually, yes, that too.
Childers is inspired to go to Sudan to help rebuild stuff and be all philanthropic. After much doing of good, he heads to the south where the LRA, a bunch of religious zealots with a blind spot for human rights, are holding the countryside to ransom - mostly with child soldiers. And so Sam tries to round up lost kids and build them an orphanage where they can be safe.
At the same time, he builds a church back in hick-town Pennsylvania, where he inadvertently becomes a preacher as well (this is important). Then, the Sudanese civil war arrives. Did we mention the fact that he has a rather convenient fondness for firearms?
Childers’ double life soon takes its toll on him and on the film. There's a very jarring clash between Sam’s life in the States, where he begs his bank for another loan for a truck, and the utter desperation we witness in Sudan. While the Sudanese segments are engrossing and at times moving, shots of Sam shouting at his congregation just disrupt the narrative. Is it meant to highlight the relative luxury of the first world? Probably, but the film doesn't do it very well: the pace is uneven and the passing of time poorly depicted, making it all-too-easy to get lost somewhere in the story's eight-year timeframe.
The movie ends with a strong humanitarian message, which keeps things nice and wholesome. It's reassuring to see that faith can drive people to such altruistic callings. But when the foreign aid point is occasionally rammed down your throat, it can get a bit irritating. Even if that's to your taste, though, that doesn't justify the two-hour plus runtime. Machine Gun Preacher is provocative, but it's mostly just long.
It's not quite Sudanese Rambo, but Machine Gun Preacher is an interesting tale of philanthropy. It just strays too often from the straight and narrow.
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