Machine Gun Preacher is the kind of film that might’ve come out in the 80s, produced by Cannon Films and starring Charles Bronson. And that’s actually is not such a bad proposition. MGP never apologizes for its stance on mowing down belligerent rebels in African countries (Sudan) with rapid fire. As helmed by Marc Forster this movie portrays a sort of low rent version of Charlie Wilson’s War.

Gerard Butler immerses himself in the real life character of Sam Childers, a mean biker, drug dealer and occasional family man who finds God, uses his construction company to fund his own church and makes it his mission in life to fight for the oppressed, with rapid fire. Michele Monaghan plays his wife with supporting turns from Michael Shannon and Kathy Baker (the latter two also appear in Take Shelter).

The Sudanese gun battle scenes are well staged and occasionally brutal. Likewise sequences establishing Childers’ bloody past often give MGP a somewhat exploitation style. The drama within the action can be profound, as a moment when a taciturn child insurgent opens up to Butler who himself is having a dark night of the soul. More often though MGP has stock scenes that would best work at a drive-in theater, like Shannon’s turn as the friend with a albatross around his neck. The end credits roll features footage of the real Childers.

— Michael Bergeron