Monday 26 March 2012


Once in a while I pick up the odd movie for no particular reason - though, I suppose, a title like 'Machine Gun Preacher' clicks because of Glen Ford's 'Heaven With A Gun'.

Gerard Butler plays the part of Sam Childers who we meet leaving prison for a bit of kerbside sex with his wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan). Childers is a drug dealing biker who gets into a bit of a temper when he discovers that his wife has given up cigarettes, drinking and making a meagre living out of stripping. Her reason for all this is that she has found God.
So, Sam goes off and finds friend Donnie and they go out and shoot up (this has several connotations and Sam manages to use all of them).
Eventually, he goes to church with his wife and daughter Paige (Madeline Carroll)and winds up getting baptised. From this point on Sam's life begins to change. He gets a job which he finds that he is good at and this leads to him forming his own construction business.
After building a church that no one wants to preach at - Sam becomes a reluctant preacher who opens the doors to the strippers, the addicts, the prostitutes and those low lifes often ignored by the established churches.
When he hears about a job in Uganda he goes off to take a look around and persuades a rebel soldier Deng (Souleymane Sy Savane) to take him to places that the tourists don't get to see.
What he finds appals him as he is introduced into the world of child soldiers. Now Sam Childers becomes fired up and practices what he preaches. He builds a mission and goes out to rescue these children and give them a place of safety. This does not come easy and is the core of the film. Along the way he discovers that 'Christian charity' does not exist - so he sells his business to finance things.
Meanwhile, Kony leader of the Sudanese LRA puts a price on Sam Childers head. He doesn't like the way that Childers is killing off his soldiers and depleting his army by rescuing the children.

Reading back on what I have written it seems that this may sound like an action, do gooder hero thing. First, Gerard Butler gives flesh and substance to Sam Childers. I had never heard of Childers let alone realise that the movie that I had picked up was based on a true story.
Jason Keller's screenplay is gripping and the movie under Marc Forster's direction rarely flags. If there are any flaws then it has to be simpering strings in the soundtracks and wide eyed looks to underline sentimental moments. They are moments that don't need to be underlined.
Nor is this a movie for the squeamish - there are atrocities here on full display. Want to find out what really happens when someone steps on a landmine?
The other thing about this movie is that despite it's subject matter it doesn't preach at the viewer.
This is a movie about a man who had his life turned around, found something to believe in and was prepared to back it up with a gun - if needs be.

Before the movie was made both the scriptwriter and director went out to Africa to see Sam Childers at the mission for Angels Of East Africa. They saw from first hand some of the things that Sam Childers had done.

As far as I'm concerned I'm glad I followed my instincts. This is a far better movie than initial critic reviews suggest - but after watching it I guess the movie makers weren't out to make friends. Still, I think that this should have had a cinema release in this country - but, I guess, this went straight to dvd. And for those who ask 'Is this really a true story?' I got two words for you..........

Sam Childers has written a book 'Another Man's War'.

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