Thursday, July 12, 2012


(US - 2011)

Gerard Butler delivers a committed, convincing performance in this noble but overly Cliffs Notesy biopic of Sam Childers, an ex-con biker and drug dealer from Pennsylvania who found God, turned his life around, and worked to provide food, shelter, and clothing for Sudanese orphans living under the threat of warlord Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.  Based on Childers' book, the film glosses over a lot of material and skips ahead with no real regard for a time element (other than Childers' young daughter suddenly played by a different actress who looks like she's 15, but still needs to be tucked in and have a story read to her before bed).  Childers is introduced getting out of prison, being a general asshole to his born-again, ex-stripper wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) and storming out of their trailer to shoot heroin with his junkie buddy Donnie (Michael Shannon).  Childers turns his life over to God after mistakenly thinking he's murdered someone, and becomes aware of the plight of the Sudanese kids during a church trip to build houses in Uganda.  His commitment to the children becomes his top priority, investing everything he has, including his construction business, into funding their needs.  And of course, this causes friction back home with the patient Lynn and his daughter ("You care more about those little black kids than you do about me!").  Despite the many contrivances, MACHINE GUN PREACHER generally works thanks to Butler, and when the film stays focused on how a very bad man can be redeemed, it's quite good.  It loses a little credibility when director Marc Forster (MONSTER'S BALL, QUANTUM OF SOLACE) occasionally depicts Childers as a fearless, Rambo-esque killing machine, and it suffers from a frustratingly weak ending, but even with its flaws, it's a powerful story with numerous moving moments (Childers presenting the kids with a playground, for instance). 

Budgeted at $30 million, MACHINE GUN PREACHER was on 93 screens at its widest release last fall, and grossed just $530,000.  Perhaps the film could've gained some renewed interest in March 2012 with "Kony 2012," had that viral YouTube sensation not immediately been associated with its creator having a meltdown, stripping nude, and jerking off at a streetcorner.  (R, 129 mins)

(US - 2012)

This horror comedy gets off to a promising start with some twisted humor and over-the-top splatter reminiscent of early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson.  Unfortunately, it quickly loses its focus and vacillates between being a gore spoof, a live-action comic book, a revenge thriller, and a maudlin feel-good movie, and ultimately succeeds at none of them.  A well-cast Kevin Corrigan is Ken Boyd, recently released from a mental institution after a failed suicide attempt.  He works in an ice-cream shop with his friend Irv (former Larry Clark regular Leo Fitzpatrick) and lives with his chain-smoking, harridan mother Ruth (Karen Black).  Ken's problems stem from a horrific high-school bullying incident at the hands of the basketball team, and soon, members of that team start turning up dead in a variety of amusingly grisly ways. At the same time, Ken cautiously begins dating Stephanie (Lucy Davis of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and the UK version of THE OFFICE) and starts spending time with his 11-year-old daughter Amy (Ariel Gade, best known as Jennifer Connelly's daughter in 2005's DARK WATER), who only recently became aware of his existence.  Despite some nice work by the cast, writer Ryan Levin (the Disney Channel series I'M IN THE BAND) and director Jack Perez (MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS) really struggle to find a tone here and it's detrimental to the whole project.  It's nice to see veteran character actor Corrigan (usually cast as dumb criminals or dim-witted sidekicks) in a rare leading role, Gade is very charming (when told by Black's Ruth "Call me Ruth...Grandma makes me sound old," she deadpans "So does Ruth"), and Barry Bostwick gets some laughs as the folksy, boozing sheriff, but it's just very directionless and filled with missed opportunities, set-ups that go nowhere, and an obligatory dumb twist ending. Perhaps executive producer John Landis, an expert at effectively fusing horror and comedy (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON), should've directed.  Also with Lindsay Hollister (BLUBBERELLA), Laura Kightlinger, and Ahmed "Jar Jar Binks" Best as the useless mayor. (R, 98 mins)

1 comment:

  1. I must say I really liked it and was satisfied at the end, it surely mixes a lot of things, but to me somehow works fine. I can recommend it, I liked the actors and the weird genre mix.