Machine Gun Preacher…The Reasonable Rebel
By Claire Ala
A heroin drug addict turned vigilante preacher lends a helping hand to orphans in Africa in “Machine Gun Preacher.” The film is based on Sam Childers, a born-again Christian who sacrifices everything to build and protect an orphanage in South Sudan. Sam has a truly inspiring story and it’s told using Rambo-like action scenes accompanied by tear-jerking moments of happiness followed with mind-numbing atrocities. Sam’s transition from junkie to a selfless, courageous individual is incredible.
The film starts off with Sam getting out of prison but stuck in his old ways. He’s full of anger and very selfish, stopping at nothing to feed his addiction. When Sam finally hits rock bottom, he asks his wife for help.
His wife (Lynn) is a recovering drug addict stripper who found Christianity. Lynn takes Sam to church with her in hopes of cleansing his body and soul. Sam stands up as a sinner. A typical baptism ensues. It’s a clear, meaningful transition into Sam’s sober life. He overcomes the drug addiction by finding meaning in life through church.
While I understand that Sam finds peace in Christianity, I found the preaching to be far from moving. I’m not big on religion, but having grown up Catholic I’m used to never-ending church service. The church scenes reminded me of childhood when I was stuck in a pew waiting impatiently for mass to finish. This film had too many scenes of Sam’s yelling rants rather than soulful sermons. The preacher’s yelling was more annoying than spiritual.
Although I didn’t like his sermons, I think Gerard Butler (from “300”) did a decent job playing Sam. He fits into the rugged hillbilly persona and has believable compassion for the orphanage. Gerard Butler’s powerful portrayal of Sam Childers creates a charismatic protagonist.
The reason I enjoyed this movie isn’t because of Sam’s rise from drug addiction. A drug addict getting clean is an ordinary tale. However, Sam’s story diverges from the norm. He decides to help others after he has made a successful life for himself and family.
Sam ends up going on a mission trip to Uganda. During the trip, he asks a guard to take him to South Sudan where it’s extremely dangerous due to civil war. Sam sees the inhumane reality taking place — the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are murdering and mutilating innocent people, abducting children to sell them into sex slavery or raise them as child soldiers. Sam completely changes after his first trip to Africa. He wants to make a difference, giving up everything to provide the children a safe haven.
Machine Gun Preacher is a depressing yet uplifting movie that should be seen. Sam Childers wasn’t always on the righteous path but found a cause that changed his life forever. Watch this unforgettable story for a look at a life that is far from cookie cutter.
Rating: 4 out of 4