By Kelly Haugh
Based on a true–and truly amazing–story, the little-known and limitedly released film “Machine Gun Preacher” has enough heart, substance and purpose that it should be on everybody’s watch list.
The movie tells the tale of bad-ass biker Sam Childers, played by the talented Gerard Butler, who is a drug-addicted ex-con from the hills of central Pennsylvania. With the love and support of his family, he manages to sober up, find God and turn his life around in an amazing and powerful way, but this supreme redemption is only a part of the story.
What really sets “Machine Gun Preacher” apart is where it takes the audience and the harsh and heart-wrenching reality it portrays. In 1998, Childers’ personal and spiritual journey takes him to war-torn southern Sudan, a place where a horrendous civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian south had been taking place since 1983. The absolute worst of humanity is shown in unflinching detail that is honestly hard to watch at times, and it’s all based in fact. Villages are razed, families are dragged from their huts in the middle of the night, fathers are murdered in front of their families, women are raped and maimed and kids are disfigured, forced to do unspeakable things or killed.
“Machine Gun Preacher” doesn’t back down or shy away from the truth. It does all the horror and violence justice by finding a way to make a powerful statement and impact viewers without being overly or needlessly gory.
Childers is deeply affected by what he sees in Sudan and sets out to do something about it, but he’s determined to do things his own way. A contractor by trade, he decides to build a badly needed orphanage smack dab in the middle of the danger zone where he feels it can make the most difference. He literally puts his life on the line in an effort to save some of Sudan’s generation of orphans and also sacrifices most of his time and money to provide as much as he can for them.
What sets Childers apart from other aid organizations is his renegade ways, which earned him his fair share of critics. He’s a man of action, both in the movie and in real life. Not content to sit idly by and leave the fighting and the protection of his orphanage to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, he picked up a gun and stood up to the LRA, or Lord’s Resistance Army, the militant group led by the notorious Joseph Kony.
Throughout the film we see Childers repeatedly fighting alongside members of the SPLA in defense of his orphans and on missions to rescue more orphans from the LRA’s clutches. The more time he spends in Africa, the more he seems to become a one man war machine, hence the film’s title.
It’s easy for the audience to get wrapped up in the drama-filled action and the rush of doling out some much deserved justice every time Childers takes down one more bad guy. That unique mix of tense, dramatic moments, exciting action, a deserving cause and the inspiring, age-old tale of one man triumphing over adversity to make a difference in the world makes “Machine Gun Preacher” a movie everyone needs to see.