In my recent recollection, this is one of those movie that I’ve seen lately which tries to cram a lot into its feeble running time. I felt like there are so many things were left out in the editing room. Even though at first it may seems that the overall story narrative remains more or less intact, there are oft times when the story jumps from one scene to another with a seemingly reckless abandon and by result, some, arguably potentially more interesting subplots are left undeveloped.
True to its title, “Machine Gun Preacher” has a consistent theme, revolving around the word “Machine Gun” and “Preacher.” Although, I find it to be a bit more excessive with the latter word that sometimes it threatens to add an adjective modifier suffix “-y” to itself. Based on the “real-life” story of Sam Childers, Gerard Butler played the titular character quite effectively when it comes to what he does best which is growling, shouting, and doing machismo radiating smirks. He was an ex-con, freshly out of jail, seemingly on a vicious endless path of criminal life bound to get back to prison before even the month is out. His wife, however, played by Michelle Monaghan, has found God, and through her and an event that pulls too close to hell, Sam has also found God. He’s back on his two own feet, founded his own construction company (with a modest success it would seems), and everybody is happy. At this point, the movie has given me so much events crammed one another, fluttering faster than the flapping wings of a butterfly that I had very nearly stopped paid any attention. The movie, however, resumes its hasty narrative and with a simple, single event, prompted our hero, Sam to fly to Sudan where he earns the title “white preacher” and where finally the word “Machine Gun” and “Preacher” coalesced.
When it comes to the real meat of the story, the movie doesn’t disappoint. It never looks away from the horror. It was very effective, it essentially turns the viewers into a sympathetic mode with Sam’s cause no matter how volatile and how many ambiguities ridden his every actions. As he, Sam Childers himself noted on his post-credit footage, “If your children were abducted and if I say I could bring them back to you, would you ask me how?” the movie depicted Sam as a no nonsense patriarch of the community of orphans he had started in Sudan. He had helps from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), and when the rebels, the designated antagonist Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) hit them hard, Sam and his groups had fought back. Maybe even harder. The movie doesn’t concerns itself about who were the rebels, or who were the good guys. It shapes itself in such a way that we thought that whoever Sam Childers with, be it SPLA or LRA, they must’ve been the good guys. It doesn’t matter really, it is after all a narrative strength and Gerard Butler had held his end of the bargain quite well. He should stop making rom-com movies and concentrates on actions.
All in all, the movie crams so much content that it may not worked for some (even if I suspect that within the ADHD-ridden, plagued with smartphones generation, this won’t be much of a problem). This resulted in some potential subplots to be sacrificed in order to make way for the main plot. Among it, was Sam’s best friend, Donnie’s sub-plot. Played by Michael Shannon, Donnie was there when Sam was out from prison, he was there when Sam was at his lowest, and he was there when Sam was away to Sudan. The movie treats his character as if there’s more to say about the man but it wasn’t just quite there yet. Sure, his character was given a closure but I couldn’t help but tasted that something was missing. For what it’s worth, it probably left out in the editing room. If it does, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Gerard Butler, as I’ve said before, is at his usual charm. Although his home life, practically his relationship with his wife and daughter, wasn’t very convincing for yours truly here, it’s understandable because he wasn’t cut for a drama anyway. But when the movie required him to elicit some proper action scenes, he delivers. Michael Shannon is also a noteworthy. I wish that there was more of him from this movie. I know he has some delicious story arc but due to a time constraint, his part was probably left out. Michelle Monaghan is, well, it is frustrating that there’s still a glaring discrepancy between female and male roles in the movies but it is what it is. She wasn’t giving much impression beyond face value. And it’s frustrating.