Published Sep 07, 2011Because of how obscenely heavy-handed and manipulative this woefully executed "true" story of reformed drug dealer and religious nut Sam Childers is, it's hard not to reduce it to a glib tagline like, "The Kite Runner with f-bombs and heroin," or "Gerard Butler and dead babies together at last!" In fact, if I could verbally give Marc Forster the finger for making such a patronizing piece of crap, I would.
To expand, Machine Gun Preacher strains itself with contrivances from the get-go, opening with Childers (Gerard Butler) getting out of jail, telling a prison guard to go fuck himself then promptly banging ex-stripper wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan). Cheesy hard rock music plays in the background while Childers gets back on the crime bandwagon, yelling at a few people, beating up others and eventually shooting heroin.
Within ten minutes, he's hit rock bottom, leaving a single well-timed speech from his Christian wife to change his ways, making him a devout Christian keen on saving African children.
Now, it's not even the glibness of the prosaic speeches turning around character ideologues that induces rage, nor is it the dreadfully contrived manner in which Marc Forster directs "edgy" material. It's insulting in that hackneyed and manipulative Crash and Blind Side way, but at this point it's just oversimplified, mindless American pap intended to engage the undiscerning.
But when the action moves over to the Sudan, where Childers builds an orphanage to house the many child soldiers he finds – routinely, sort of like Michael Jackson's Moonwalker for Sega – the slow motion shots of children being burned and mutilated, heightened by melodramatic music and an exceedingly awkward Butler raising his arms to the sky, make this nonsense unbearable.
If this weren't bad enough, these overly heavy-handed sequences demanding people have an unearned cry are juxtaposed with rich, white Americans having fancy soirees while refusing to donate money to the cause because of the recession.
It's so simultaneously self-righteous and solipsistic that it's hard not to feel offended by how clumsily Forster has attempted to force our hand and mindset. It actively insults our intelligence by offering up every wrong-headed cliché in the book to guide feelings, throwing in the occasional joke to ensure that weaker audience members don't get too overwhelmed.
Beyond the stupidity of having fringe characters like Michael Shannon show up randomly to beat, and become reacquainted with, drugs, using lazily constructed fight scenes as triggers, or writing a teenage girl like a five-year-old, wanting to have books read to her despite being old enough for a bra, what's offensive is the overly simplified politics.
If exploiting third world issues to further your liberal agenda is your bag, then perhaps this is the movie for you. Otherwise, avoid this nonsense. (Alliance)