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Based on the true story of Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), the motorbike riding bad boy who turned his life around when he found God and reached out to the orphans of Sudan and Uganda deciding to help out there as well.

 Machine Gun Preacher
This biopic initially feels like a late seventies/early eighties affair with a bunch of badlads doing some bad and brutal things. At first Gerard Butler doesn’t fit into the role as he seems like a nice guy trying to play a bad guy but after an armed robbery and a truly vicious knifing of a hobo in the back of a speeding car it's easy to accept Butler in this darker role, just before his character finds God and turns his life around and the real point of this story starts taking form. This is where Butler feels more at home. A family man, putting a life together and without there ever being a scene where they spell it out quite so clearly, a man trying to make up for his past sins by following a path God sets out before him.

Despite the fact it takes a while for this movie to settle into a stride, I liked how events just occur and Childers just got on with things. He sorts his life out, sets up a business, gets a family home and then after a talk at his local church about the trouble in Uganda he makes a simple choice. He decides to go to Uganda to help out and Childer's life and indeed this movie changes, just like that. For a few scenes this feels odd and there’s about a ten minute period where you aren’t quite sure how we’ve changed locations so fast but this works for the character and if this movie is trying to convey the message that it’s easy to change your life to do a good thing, it succeeds.

 Machine Gun Preacher
While in South Sudan, Childers goes through plenty of hardship, helping out the kids, building an orphanage and taking Kony’s (yes that Kony who's in the news a lot lately) men on with machine guns if they attack. He also actively goes out to save any of the kidnapped children who will be sold into slavery or worse and given the recent internet explosion about Kony, this film suddenly feels very current, despite the 2011 release.

So with that said, was Machine Gun Preacher any good? For the most part it’s a yes. Butler plays the whole thing pretty straight with the admirable get up and go attitude of the man he’s portraying but he’s not doing much outside of his normal range and not all of his variations on the character are all that believable either. I appreciated the dramatic strength of the story and I liked how easy they made the character's choices seem, bringing it down to a simple “doing the right thing” approach but Machine Gun Preacher didn't quite reach me on an emotional level. There were a few scenes towards the end that amped those elements up but not to the level the situation in Sudan and Uganda should rouse from an audience, given the brutal nature of the living conditions and the tyranny the people live under.

 Machine Gun Preacher
Video
The film begins with an attack on a village in the middle of the night. The deep black backdrop with the village huts aflame glows off the screen and then with the cut to Pennsylvania into a grain filled prison corridor the transfer is suddenly a whole lot grittier. This is generally how the movie looks for the duration, with a textured, grainy feel and it works for the subject matter quite well.

Colours are a little off of natural, falling closer to the teal and orange that modern filmmaking is serving up so much of but it adds plenty of warmth to the image and skin tones look generally good because of it. There’s a bit of depth to the image in some of the naturally lit wider shots but detail can sometimes feel lacking in the tighter shots, especially the darker ones. That said the outdoor Sudan scenes glow nicely, with plenty of detail in skin textures and clothing and while this isn’t an HD transfer that popped quite as much as I expected it to, it certainly had its moments.

 Machine Gun Preacher
Audio
For the most part this track has dialogue at its centre. Whether it be general conversation or Butler’s booming voice as he gets more into the church preacher scenes. On top of that there’s always plenty of layers in all of the external scenes. Kids playing, construction, the clicking of wildlife, there’s a lot bringing scenes to life.

The show off moments are the machine gun battles. They rattle strongly through the speakers and bass, providing multiple layers of gunfire as well as screams, yelling and often creating a naturally chaotic atmosphere. There’s also a very effective storm early in the film, with plenty of wind swirls and booming thunder and destruction that gets very aggressive.

 Machine Gun Preacher

Extras


Weirdly, there’s nothing here. Given the real life story this is based on, I expected at least Gerard Butler talking about what drew him to the project but no, there’s nothing. The best you get here is the photos of the real life Sam Childers in the film’s closing credits.

 Machine Gun Preacher

Overall


Machine Gun Preacher has a cool title, that makes this movie sound like it’s going to fall in with the Grindhouse gang but it really isn't that at all (well sometimes it is but it's never consistent). Really, this is a fairly routine biopic of a pretty extraordinary story. It’s got some okay performances and at its best the film highlights just how easy it would be to make the decision to help others. The disc looks good, sounds good but has no features, so a rental seems a good route for this one.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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