Machine Gun Preacher (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Marc Forster
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 129 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Review Date: June 1, 2012
After his latest release from prison, outlaw biker Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) intends to go back to his nefarious ways, but a close brush with his committing murder and his wife and family’s conversion to Christianity help Sam find his faith in traveling a different path to personal gratification. Starting his own construction business and attending church regularly, he becomes interested in doing five weeks of missionary work in Uganda clearing rubble and rebuilding bombed structures. Once there, however, he finds a more urgent need: hundreds of orphaned children in Uganda and the Sudan at the mercy of the country’s LRA leader Joseph Kony who’s killing their parents, rounding up the children and using them as sex slaves or soldiers fighting against their own countrymen. Sam’s commitment to the fates of these otherwise abandoned children becomes an obsession causing his works back home (his business and a new church he’s founded) to sink as he pours all of his effort toward the needy Africans at the expense of his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter Paige (Madeline Carroll).
With only two hours of screen time, Jason Keller’s screenplay doesn’t really have an opportunity to delve into the depths of Sam’s soul as we watch him go from outlaw to saint. It happens all too quickly with the remainder of the film presenting a character that except for a brief moment when he has a lapse of faith (completely expected in this kind of film) is devoid of nuance. There’s a miniseries worth of ideas and plot events to be told but instead have been condensed into the film’s running time, and despite sporadic bursts of violence that undoubtedly keep things hopping, the movie really seems unsatisfyingly lacking depth. Director Marc Forster does keep things tense in the Africa sequences with snipers always lurking just out of frame ready to kill at a second’s notice and with his main character bravely blundering into enemy territories impervious to fear. He contrasts rather too obviously the luxury and wastefulness of the affluent back home in a scene where Sam hobnobs with the Pennsylvanian elite to try to wrangle some much needed funds for his Sudan orphanage and playground, and the American-set scenes once Sam makes Africa his base of operations really suffer in comparison.
Gerard Butler is equally proficient in portraying Sam as saint or sinner, and his physicality comes in very handy as his character wins the nickname “Machine Gun Preacher” with his take-no-prisoners answer to Kony’s continual assaults on his efforts. It’s a great beefy role for the actor, and he throws himself into it with a vengeance (he also served as an executive producer on the project), but it isn’t subtle acting, that’s for certain. Michelle Monaghan’s steadfast wife gets few opportunities to shine but is winning in everything she does. So, too, is Madeline Carroll as Sam’s daughter Paige. For subtlety, there’s Michael Shannon doing a wonderful job as Sam’s biker best friend Donnie who also tries to walk the straight and narrow needing more of Sam’s help than he’s available to give. Souleymane Sy Savane offers Sam a strong right arm in the Sudan sequences as Deng.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is usually quite good throughout with only an occasional shot that seems soft or ill-defined. Color saturation levels are naturally maintained with realistic flesh tones predominant. Black levels are good rather than great and shadow detail is likewise variable but generally good. Yellow subtitles are used when English isn’t being spoken, and they are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does a splendid job with its available channels whether offering the panning sounds of Sam’s motorcycle zooming through the soundstage, the split effects of the gunfire during the various firestorms in Africa, or offering the sounds of a tornado that reeks havoc on Sam’s mobile home. Dialogue is always easy to understand and has been placed in the center channel. The unusual music score also gets impressive spread through the soundfield and sounds splendid.
All of the bonus featurettes are presented in 1080i.
“Machine Gun Preacher: A Discussion with Marc Forster” offers 18 ½ minutes with the director of the film as he discusses the real Sam Childers, his casting of Gerard Butler for the part and his casting of the other major roles, and the filming of the scenes first in America and then in South Africa.
“Making the Music for Machine Gun Preacher” allows head composer Thad Spencer along with his composing team to discuss the various themes used for different aspects of the movie, the use of unusual instrument to give unique sounds to the soundtrack, and the five Pentecostal songs composed for various church sequences in the movie. This runs 14 minutes.
“The Keeper” music video is performed by Chris Cornell and runs 3 ¾ minutes.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
There are promo trailers for Act of Valor, The Raven, The Whistleblower, and The Last Ride.
The second disc in the set in the DVD copy of the movie.
The third disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installing it on PC and Mac devices.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Machine Gun Preacher isn’t subtle, but it’s an interesting true-life story with a message worth hearing. The Blu-ray presents it with excellent picture and sound and with some informative bonus features also present. It’s certainly worthy of a rental.