Machine Gun Preacher
Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon
Details: US/129mins 15A
Well meaning but heavy-handed, this sober production was the type of film that Gerard Butler needed to rescue him from painful roles in dreadful Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Aniston flicks. This is a great part for him, but director Forster can't seem to figure out how to balance the violence and more ponderous moments and while it doesn't hurt Butler's performance (or a great Monaghan), it leaves an unconvincing film.
Butler is the recently released from prison, Sam Childers. When he gets out of the slammer he finds that his once pole-hugging wife (Monaghan) has found Jesus and is no longer a member of the see-through slipper club. At first Sam resists following his wife's new path, but on a night out with a pal (Shannon working a thankless role well), a hitchhiker is killed in self-defence and Sam decides that now finding JC might be good for him too. He and his missus end up in a dangerous Sudan, where villages are regularly subject to horrific attacks. There to help traumatised local children, when diplomacy doesn't work, Sam picks up a gun...
Forster obviously deeply cares about the subject matter, and that may have clouded his ability to tell this story cohesively. There are some truly disturbing moments in 'Preacher' - many of which happen every day in war torn parts of Africa - and it does succeed in placing a magnifying glass over those occurrences which may cause the broader public to take more notice. But as a story, it is too all over the place and never really moves properly.
Butler has had moments before (granted, in mostly subpar productions) that proved he can really act. The opening fifteen minutes of the otherwise ridiculous Law Abiding Citizen showed that he can provoke empathy when applicable. Here, he has a complex, layered character who goes on a figurative and literal journey; he's great, and it's his performance is complimented by a strong supporting turn from Monaghan.
Not the film it could, or should have been, it's notable for Butler shining outside of his comfort zone.