MACHINE GUN PREACHER
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Marc Forster is one of those directors I respect more than enjoy. All of his movies tend to have such a serious, realistic element to them yet never quite hold together as I’d like them to. Those were my thoughts on his artistic ones like “Finding Neverland.” Even his stab at the James Bond franchise with “Quantum of Solace” was a bit of an enigma in the series. I tend to like his movies to a degree, but he’s usually struggling with bigger issues and themes that get in his own way.
In fact, the only film he’s made that I truly love is “Stranger Than Fiction,” and that’s probably because it embraces these enigmatic qualities, which makes the film so charming and loveable.
“Machine Gun Preacher” suffers the same fate as much of Forster’s work. It tells the story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), a real-life convict-turned-preacher-turned-Sudanese missionary. After being released from prison, Childers falls back into his destructive lifestyle. However, a dangerous encounter with drugs and violence lead him to find God. After building his own church for real sinners, he embarks on mission projects in the Sudan. Childers builds an orphanage in war-torn Africa and becomes the bane of the corrupt warlords.
On a certain level, when I first heard of this movie, I was hoping for this to be an overseas version of “Hobo With a Shotgun.” But that’s not Forster’s style. While it tells a touching story and brings to life the horrendous conditions faced by the children in that are of the world, it can be a bit… preachy, if you pardon the pun.
The opening of the film is a extremely heavy handed with Childers life of debauchery, and it is equally laid on thick as we see him rise into a life of God. But it’s typical of Forster, who shows some unflinching realities with no real solid answers… staying true to real life.
Butler gives a fine performance, but the lack of answers, focus and message causes “Machine Gun Preacher” to not always stay on target. On one hand, it’s trying to bring awareness to the problem. On the other hand, imagine how many books and trucks could have been bought or orphanages built with the film’s $30m budget.
The bonus material in this set isn’t extensive, though the few featurettes that are offered have decent insight into the production and the story behind the film. Marc Forster discusses the development and production of the film in the 30-minute “Machine Gun Preacher: A Discussion with Marc Forster.” There’s also a detailed discussion of the film’s music in “Making the Music for Machine Gun Preacher.” Rounding out the special features is “The Keeper” music video by Chris Cornell.
Two bonus discs are also included: a standard-definition DVD of the film as well as a Digital Copy disc for portable use.