Although it’s been hard to come to terms with, since Zack Snyder got him to strip down to his underpants and (doubtless) demanded he slather himself in goose fat for “300,” for whatever reason Gerard Butler is a movie star. The guy seems to enjoy scampering through sexist rom-coms (“The Bounty Hunter,” “The Ugly Truth”) with all the boundless gaiety of a Renaissance Man and otherwise crops up in hysterically misjudged vigilante pictures (“Law Abiding Citizen”) where he claims he’s going to “kill everyone,” perhaps in some deluded effort to test his “range” (more’s the pity, Gerry, you don’t catch Christian Bale pulling shit like this). Unfortunately for audiences, when it comes to giving nuanced screen performances, he’s about as versatile as Kangaroo Jack, though we’ll concede few can match the actor for sheer bovine intensity.
Even if the film was at one time being weirdly pitched as an Oscar contender, it’s the latter quality that Mr. Butler is bringing to this first preview clip for “Machine Gun Preacher” over at EW, wherein he wails on a banker for not lending him money to carry out his humanitarian work, presumably besting all those other pansy-ass aid workers who have a low tolerance for bazookas. In the other clip which you can watch below, Butler — wearing a shirt he borrowed from Alan in “The Hangover” — gives a bunch of cute African children a place to sleep for the night with a cloying score there to remind you that this scene is supposed to be touching.
The real life story of “Christian mercenary” Sam Childers – an ex-gang biker who rescued children from a Sudanese war zone, and then set up an orphanage for them — is, of course, a remarkable tale. Hollywood can hardly be said to give fair due to the more complicated aspects of the socio-political make-up of the African continent though, especially if – as is the case with films like Ed Zwick’s “Blood Diamond” – the story amounts to little more than “white man saves Africa.” We suspect this is where the film might be going; an uncomplicated morality tale that skims off the top of “Schindler’s List,” albeit with ‘spolsions aplenty, and beatifies Childers out of all proportion in the process because he’s being played by a movie star, though we’ll be the first to throw our hands up if we’re wrong. It’s just hard to see it accomplishing what a documentary on the comparable subject matter could, as anyone who’s seen “Mugabe and the White African” and its sensitive handling of Zimbabwe, will tell you.
Marc Forster, the camera-jockey behind “Monster’s Ball” and “Finding Neverland” is strapped into the director’s chair and no stranger to wildly careening in and out of genres he should leave well alone (“Quantum of Solace,” so named for all the consolation the second-unit director needed afterwards). Quibbles with the director aside, the film has an impressive ensemble cast featuring Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon.
The clip culminates with Butler spitting, “Don’t tell me to calm down!” but anyone acquainted with Butler’s star turns elsewhere can make a fair guess about where this is going. All together now…Butler probably grabs the snivelling pus-bag by the collar, and then predictably screams some variant on “THIS!!! IS!!!! FORECLOSUREEEEEE!!!!!” and kicks the godforsaken moneylender into a bear pit filled with cobras. Right?
“Machine Gun Preacher” opens in limited release on September 23rd, and will premiere first at TIFF.