First I would like to say thank you to the Seattle International Film Festival for presenting a special preview screening of this film and for bringing in Sam Childers and screenwriter Jason Keller for a post movie Q&A.
Machine Gun Preacher is based on the true story of Sam Childers as he goes from heroin addicted drug dealer and all around trouble maker to becoming a major force in protecting children and families from violence bordering on genocide in the heart of war ravaged Sudan. When I very first heard the name of this movie, my instant reaction without knowing any story details was that this would fall in to the same category as Hobo With a Shotgun and Machete which were very stylized Grindhouse movies that play for cheap thrills and indulgence. This movie turned out to be about as different as could possibly be and surprised me in several different ways.
Seeing Gerard Butler take on this role was the first thing that stood out as he is primarily known for action roles like his breakout role as King Leonidis in 300 and unfortunate missteps like Bounty Hunter which I'll admit I have not seen, but also really don't feel that I need to. The man he would be portraying in this film is very complicated in that he does not represent the classic rags to riches or lost-soul-turned-good type of character. Mr. Childers really remains flawed in many ways even as he seeks redemption and looks to save the lives of others and Gerard brings an emotional intensity to the role that really draws you in and makes the character believable.
The story itself is a very important one as it affects on several different levels. There is the recovering drug addict story and how it impacts both the man and the family he is struggling to hold together that will no doubt speak to those that have been touched by such matters. There is also the much larger story of massive violence and corruption on a scale that is impacting almost the entire continent of Africa. You will be emotionally drawn in by both, you will learn from them, and you will want to do something about them all at the same time.
There is a strong religious presence in the story as Sam's major turning point was in finding God and using his new found strength and purpose to help others. Even with this in play, you never really feel like its being used as a sermon to the audience and the film makers manage to keep the focus on what the screenwriter and the man himself really wanted to get across. With a clear intent on shining a light at the atrocities going on in places like Sudan, Uganada, the Congo, and Ethiopia, the movie still manages to tell a rich and engaging story of a man struggling to do everything he can to help as many people as possible. If this had been a total work of fiction, it would still be a very entertaining movie, but the fact that there is so much truth behind it, gives it that much more depth and emotion.
You should see this movie for the following reasons:
1) Gerard Butler's standout performance.
2) The movie is a very well made drama with intense action throughout.
3) You will immediately want to know more about the topics covered in the film.
4) This is an important story that is well worth the time and effort.