Machine gun preacher
Direction: Marc Forster
Cast: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan
Take a provocative title and an incredible true-life story and the viewer probably couldn't ask for more. Alas, the result is an overwrought docudrama that leaves us lamenting the waste of top-line talent.
Loosely based on the autobiographical book by Sam Childers, Machine Gun Preacher chronicles the life and times of the controversial ex-con (Butler) who had an unlikely religious conversion.
Released from prison, the former drug addict quickly reverts to his bad old ways. But after a bloody confrontation with a hitchhiker, the jailbird decides to devote himself to humanitarian work. Renouncing his past, he begins by constructing a community church in his hometown. More nobly, he builds an orphanage for the victims in war-ravaged Sudan. And then things get really crazy.
The renegade militia is on the rampage decimating the local populace. Our protagonist embraces violence again leading a band of resistance fighters to defend the Sudanese children from further atrocities.
Essentially a hagiography about a born-again crusader, director Forster (Quantum of Solace) fails to delve into the complexities of the situation. We rarely come close to the heart and mind of the do-gooder as he wages a relentless battle against the forces of oppression. There are moments of feverish friction between the motley characters and some of the action scenes are extremely hard-hitting.
As the titular hell-raiser, Gerard Butler is efficient. Michael Shannon turns out to be a scene-stealer in the role of his junkie best buddy. Michelle Monaghan serves as the mandatory glamour quotient.
An all-too-earnest biopic, Machine Gun Preacher just about makes it to the see-grade.