“Machine
Gun Preacher” is, if nothing else, a cautionary tale for other
filmmakers: Just because your source material is inherently captivating
and thrilling doesn’t mean your movie will be by default. The film takes
the harrowing true story of Sam Childers and reduces it to a plodding,
by-the-numbers biopic strangled by its own chronology. And the source
material is pretty impressive: Childers, an ex-con and recovering drug
addict, finds Jesus and heads to Africa for some missionary work. But
when he’s confronted with the horrors of war-torn Sudan, he launches his
own crusade to rescue orphaned children, becoming a folk hero and
target for rebel forces.

On film, though, it’s all presented with a
bland “this happened, then this happened” sobriety, the script reducing
interesting people, like Childers (Gerard Butler) and his wife, Lynn,
(Michelle Monaghan) to movie-of-the-week proportions.

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