Relativity Media’s Machine Gun Preacher has its home release today on Blu-Ray and DVD, and if you’re wondering if you should pick up the action biopic, read my review after the jump.
The film, written by Jason Keller and directed by Marc Forster, is based on the real life story of Sam Childers, a reformed biker who protects kids in Africa. After becoming a born again Christian, Childers (played by Gerard Butler) hears of the problems in Sudan and Uganda involving the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He first goes to Uganda to help build homes for refugees, but then is compelled to build an orphanage in Sudan, the heart of the war zone. Unfortunately, the LRA is big on kidnapping children and forcing them to join their army, so Childers has to fight them off, eventually even leading missions to rescue kidnapped children (earning him the nickname in the title). The story tells of Childers’ struggles to realize his life was in shambles, and then the struggle of keeping the orphanage open and prosperous in the face of the LRA and limited funds.
No matter which way you cut it, Childers is a badass in real life and on screen. He’s out in the middle of Africa taking on an army (with the help of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army) to save kids he doesn’t even know. The film is also surprisingly timely, as the main (yet unseen) villain is LRA leader Joseph Kony, who has become infamous this year with the Invisibile Children video campaign. The film and Childers’ fight highlight the terribleness going on in Africa and inspires you to want to do more.
Unfortunately, the film is a bit slow as the plot meanders every which way. Childers doesn’t even get to Africa for the first time until over 30 minutes in, and there isn’t much forward movement in the story. Obviously, life doesn’t have a straight forward plot, but at the end of the day, this is a film. Unfortunately, this also means that we don’t have much of a climax or resolution, and while Childers does have a character arc, it doesn’t really lead to anything tangible.
Butler plays the title role well, and he is surrounded by a solid cast. Michelle Monaghan plays his wife Lynn, and Michael Shannon transforms himself into a biker junkie for the role of Childers’ best friend Donnie. While I do have issues with the film’s pacing and storytelling, it is still compelling to watch, and feels more tragic and inspirational than the KONY 2012 video.
The Blu-Ray Combo Pack includes two featurettes, “Machine Gun Preacher: A Discussion with Marc Foster”, and “Making the Music for Machine Gun Preacher”. There is also a music video for Chris Cornell’s song “The Keeper”.