Machine Gun Preacher

Film
2 out of 5 stars
Machine Gun Preacher

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

No, it's not the latest attempt at kick-starting a comic-book superhero franchise; rather, the holy man in question is Sam Childers, a former Harley-ridin', heroin-shootin', gun-lovin' badass from Pennsylvania. As played by 300's Gerard Butler, this real-life ex-con radiates masculine menace from minute one, even after he gives up his evil ways and finds God. A visit from a missionary prompts Childers to travel to Sudan, where he's soon building an orphanage and fighting firearms with firearms, thus earning the titular nickname. (Given his penchant for popping out of the bushes with guns blazing, one character's assessment that Childers is the "African Rambo or something" feels way more accurate.) This Good Samaritan won't let his family back home, his lack of funds or a civil war stop him from single-handedly protecting his underage wards. Wait, did we say this wasn't a superhero movie?

Childers's varied, charitable life story warrants a movie, but whether that means it's okay to simply mash up sappy Christian piety and action-movie chaos is highly debatable. Marc Forster's resume is one mixed bag—a J.M. Barrie biopic, a Bond movie, Monster's Ball—yet if his Kite Runner adaptation and this PSA on steroids are any indication, overly earnest if violent exotica may be his default metier. A true tale of a born-again brute with a heart of gold and a full clip can, surprisingly, let someone indulge those tendencies; it won't, however, do justice to either a religious rebel or his righteous cause.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

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