Let me start by stating what director Marc Forster [Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner] gives us with Machine Gun Preacher. Don’t let the title mislead you into thinking this is an exploitation movie of the Tarantino Grindhouse mould or the Rodriguez beast of a movie that is Machete. What we have here in fact is one very emotional drama, a true story about a guy called Sam Childers [Gerard Butler]. Based on the book ‘Another Man’s War’, the true story of Sam Childers, it obviously takes a few liberties to transfer it to the silver screen but generally I get the impression that it stays pretty close to the real deal.

Sam was a violent, foul-mouthed, drug using biker who had hit rock bottom and realised that he had to change. After joining his wife at church one day the conflict and guilt inside results in him becoming a Christian. He soon decides that he’s being called to Africa – a decision that will change himself and his family, forever.

Being a builder by trade, he sets off intending to build a mission church and then an orphanage for the children displaced by the war in Sudan, but finds himself becoming a vigilante of sorts, rescuing the children kidnapped by Kony and the LRA.Now, for a movie about a Christian man the filmmakers have done a rare thing. They actually portray Christianity as the powerful, life-changing, mysterious and often frustrating and challenging force that it really is. It doesn’t show how problem free and safe your life becomes when you choose to follow Christ, because any Christian will tell you that’s nonsense. It shows how you become stirred up inside, to BE a change in the world rather than just to pray for change. It shows that sometimes by doing what is right, you risk losing those closest to you.

Now, for me this is one of the most surprising movies I’ve seen recently. I’m not a huge fan of Gerard Butler but the difference in his presence between say Gamer and this movie are poles apart, here he does a great job. That may in some way be down to the fact that he was one of the executive producers on this, or simply the fact that Gamer was a dire movie.

Butler portrays Sam as a very complex person, in conflict with himself about who he’s meant to his wife and daughter, how he’s supposed to cope with what he sees happening to the children in Africa, and how that all ties in with his faith. It’s surprisingly deep – if a little rushed. It all feels like it takes place relatively quickly as we jump constantly between home and Africa, but I believe the reality these events happened over several years.Supporting cast is good with Michelle Monaghan very strong in her role as Lynn, his wife, in fact I think it’s the best work I’ve seen her do. For me, however, there is one character who it feels like most of their scenes must be on the floor of the editing room. Michael Shannon’s role as Sam’s friend, Donnie, who walks a similar road to salvation is nowhere near as fleshed out as I felt it should have been.

The script has its moments of weakness but there are also moments of challenge. Childers spouts words that should challenge any Christian, “In actions, you serve the Lord. He’s not interested in your good intentions. He wants your backs, your hands.”

But as the story unravels we see him struggle with his faith and how people can stand by and do nothing when so many need our help. Who wouldn’t right?

Technically this is not one of the best movies ever made, but Machine Gun Preacher is one of the most challenging I have seen in a while. It will make you uncomfortable, and it will initiate plenty of debate afterwards. I saw it 2 weeks ago and it is still rattling around in my head!

But it’s during the end credits that the real Sam Childers confronts us with the most thought-provoking question of the movie. He asks, “If a madman abducted your child and I said I could bring them home, does it matter how I do it?”