I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know a lot about what happens in Africa. I’ve heard and read about the mass genocide years ago. I just recently heard about Joesph Kony this year like the majority of Americans. So when I heard the title of this picture, I didn’t realize it had anything to do with Kony, Africa, or the children who live in horrible conditions there. I don’t care for Gerard Butler enough to look to see what the movie was about either. I figured it was some bang, bang, exploitation rip off flick like Rutger Hauer’s “Hobo with a Shotgun”. If only this film had been that entertaining. Not to say this film is all bad, it’s not. But if you go into it thinking it’s going to be an action film you will be very disappointed. What little action is in it seems very forced and done very poorly. It is mostly a bio – pic about Sam Childer’s (played by Butler) who was a drug addict, Harley riding, bar bouncing, jerk who found religion and turned his life around. He hears about the struggle in the Sudan and goes to help build some schools and such. He then sees the effects of the civil war there and the terror that Joe Kony has left in his wake. (Kony captures children, turns the boys into child soldiers and sells the girls into prostitution. Yeah, Kony is a true bastard.) He begins going to Africa constantly, and builds an orphanage there to provide shelter to the orphaned Sudan kids. In America, Sam has built his own church for people like himself and started preaching. But he starts going to Africa more and more and begins to neglect his family, and business. The story of Sam is an inspiring one. He was a man who had no direction in life and finally found a purpose. The story of the Sudan children is a sad and horrifying one that should be told. This film is well meaning but fails on many levels. Mostly due to Butler. Butler is a very limited actor and I can see he really felt this role but he just isn’t a good enough actor to pull off a part like this. I couldn’t help thinking Mickey Rourke could have been brilliant in this role. The pacing of the film also seemed really inconsistent. There were points where you see they wanted to take time to tell the story and get you involved in what Sam was going through and the horror he was seeing. But then they flip it over and want to show Butler standing in the middle of the road with a rocket launcher. This really come off to me as an ego trip for Butler. (who is one of the producers) Yes he is playing the main character, but when you have great talents like Michelle Monaghan, and Michael Shannon and you give them about 20 minutes of screen time. That is a travesty. Also I understand that they wanted to tell the story of this man Sam, but a little more of the actual story of these kids should have gotten more script time. I mean, it is why Sam gave up his life to go there in the first place.
In all this film is well-meant, and has moments of true potential. But Gerard Butler is too weak of an actor to pull off a role this complex. The pacing was up and down, the script should have focused a bit more on the actual story of the Sudanese children. If you want to see a real movie about the horrors that go on in Africa I recommend the amazing film “Hotel Rwanda”, starring Don Cheadle.
my score for MACHINE GUN PREACHER – 3 and a half, out of 7 stars