Gerard Butler (300) delivers a searing performance in this explosive, action-packed story of an inspiring real-life hero. Butler stars as Sam Childers, a drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing spiritual transformation and makes a life-changing decision to travel to war-torn East Africa. After witnessing unspeakable horrors faced by innocent children, he vows to save them at any cost, including his own safety. Childers begins waging a relentless battle against the territory's renegade militia, leading harrowing missions behind enemy lines to rescue kidnapped orphans and restore peace to their lives - and eventually his own.
Machine Gun Preacher
takes a fictionalized look at the life of Sam Childers, a down-and-out ex-con who found God and an obsessed new calling: to save the orphaned children of southern Sudan. Gerard Butler plays Childers, whom we first meet as a brutish addict, and the actor's gutsy performance has everything to do with making us follow him through the film's winding, globe-spanning turns. Whether delivering an overheated sermon (you get the idea Childers has replaced one addiction with another) or toting firearms through the dangerous back roads of Africa, Butler presents a forceful creation, one that reminds us that Childers is far from a conventional sympathetic hero. In fact, director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace
) is so busy exploring the psychological ambiguities of the character he neglects to give the movie a basic, driving momentum, which might make you wonder what exactly it is you're watching from time to time: inspirational religious fable, action picture, or political drama? Michelle Monaghan (Source Code
) does duty as Sam's born-again wife, who must endure the usual domestic hardships related to her husband's frequent absences from home, and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road
) plays Sam's old biker buddy, reformed to become the world's worst babysitter. In bringing up the horror stories of warfare and atrocity in southern Sudan, the movie has noble ambitions, and its R-rated nature means it doesn't skimp on the terrible details. Still, it tends to fall a little too easily into the format of the white guy saving the African people, an example of the way the movie's various subjects seem, overall, a little undigested. --Robert Horton