DVD Review: Machine Gun Preacher

A Gritty and Confronting Gerard Butler in ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ [DVD Review]

Gerard Butler plays Sam Childers, a man sinking in a sea of drugs and crime, who is transformed by faith and dedicates himself to rescuing child soldiers.

By Mark HadleyTuesday 15 May 2012MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Machine Gun Preacher

Rating: MA15+
Distributor: DVD / Blu-ray
Release Date: Available now

The first child soldier I ever met was somewhere in his 30s. I was working on a documentary in Uganda and we were visiting a World Vision facility where workers were restoring the lives of those forced to serve in organizations like The Lord’s Resistance Army. I thought I was going to see young boys and girls. But the returned adults I met revealed a whole other side to this tragedy – decades lost to horrific acts they’d been brainwashed to believe in. I wondered what might have happened if someone had stepped in before those years had been snatched away. Machine Gun Preacher is the story of a man who sought to do just that.

Gerard Butler plays Sam Childers, a man who enters the film sinking in a sea of drugs, robbery and violent crime. His anger overflows on anyone fool enough to get in his way. However his wife Lynn suffers his rages patiently because she’s discovered a way out of addiction and the sex industry:

Lynn: “I aint dancing any more because it aint right – in the eyes of God.”
Sam: “Oh, you found God now?”
Lynn: “He found me … and He’s there for you too, baby.”
Sam: “You’re a junkie stripper and that’s all you’ll be.”

But his wife’s transformation earns Sam’s grudging respect and when he finally hits rock bottom, it’s her he turns to. Lynn takes him to church where the Holy Spirit begins a conversion that will culminate in Sam becoming the head of his own construction company and a committed Christian. That combination takes him to Uganda to build houses. However a side trip to the Sudan reveals the shocking pain caused by the LRA, in particular the crippling, killing and enslaving of children. Childers determines to do everything he can to care for thousands of war orphans, even if it means taking up arms himself.

Gerard Butler in Machine Gun Preacher --

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Machine Gun Preacher is a distressingly honest film but it deserves the attention of mature Christians. The ravages of the LRA are displayed in a way that will – and should – prove disturbing. Childers is also a man who struggles to find the best way forward, sometimes employing dubious methods, at others fighting with the very God he hopes to serve. Yet for all that it perfectly displays the necessity for every believer to do more than just deal with sin in their own lives. Butler preaches to an American congregation,

“In your actions you give service to the Lord. He’s not interested in your good intentions, your good thoughts. No, He wants your backs, your hands, your sweat, your blood to pour into the foundation that will build up His kingdom.”

In a recent interview with Adrian Drayton, the real Sam Childers admitted many Christians have criticized the theology behind the film. At times Machine Gun Preacher seems to suggest that social and political goals matter more than the spiritual claims of the Gospel, and sin can be employed to end the suffering of others. However he says the story is aimed particularly at unbelievers, who need to understand that Jesus is still alive and doing miracles in this world. “I don’t want people to think that this movie is about Sam Childers or about rescuing children in Africa,” he says. “This movie, after you watch it, is all about you. What are you going to do now?”

Machine Gun Preacher is not a film to be taken lightly; the MA15+ rating is well deserved because the subject matter is serious, and just as worthy of serious consideration. But few stories since The Cross and the Switchblade have so well demonstrated the power of God to change a life, or His ability to use it to bring the hope of His Kingdom to the most hopeless situations.