No matter what Gerard Butler does, he will forever be attached to "300". He will forever be attached to belting out "WE ARE SPARTA!"


I believe he has accepted that. However, after you remember his role as Leonidas, you can only remember him for inane pathetic castings in ""RocknRola", "The Ugly Truth", "Gamer", "Law Abiding Citizen", and the woeful "The Bounty Hunter".


Somewhere along the line, some marketing people decided he was a female draw - a ladies man so-to-speak - so we got him in awkward chick flicks or pointless action flicks.

I can only assume that after all the bad reviews, his agent must have advised him to change his direction. That direction is to a more serious tone as in "Coriolanus" and "Machine Gun Preacher". One is a modern take on a Shakespearean play, the other another bio-drama based on a real living person.


In "Machine Gun Preacher" Butler plays Sam Childers a hard drinking, drug addicted, criminal minded asshole who once released from prison, returns to his old ways and his old stomping grounds. After being picked up by his devoted wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) he immediately starts hanging out with his old hood rat Donnie (Michael Shannon) who turns him on to drugs and petty crime.


Meanwhile, he rebuffs his wife who has become born again whilst he was in prison and it looks like he is on a path to do what most ex-cons do - return back to prison or get killed.


But when participates in a burglary that goes horrifically wrong and finds himself trying to scrub the evidence out of his clothes, he realizes he needs to change his ways immediately and turns to his wife for help.

She gets him involved with her church, which leads him to a steady construction job, which leads him to starting his own construction company and surprising success. It is during one of the church services that he hears a man speak of the hardships in Sudan during the civil war that his costing children their lives.


Immediately he decides to help. thus with the blessing of his family, he flies over to help the ministry help the children.


But when he gets there he discovers it is far worse than he imagined with constant raids, kidnappings and murders. So with the help of originally a hesitant Sudanese named Deng (Souleymane Sy Savane) Sam picks up a gun and helps the resistance fight back... with a vengeance. Unlike other missionaries, killing comes easy for Sam.


Duringthe course of his fighting, he mortgages his house and belongings to the max so that he can build a well defended church and school for the children, thus creating a local legacy. Obviously these sacrifices came at a price back in his home; one that he realizes he must tend to.


Gerard Butler is in his element as Sam Childers, though his Scottish accent comes through his so-called Great Plains background. You can't help but think that were it not for Hollywood nurturing Butler's career, someone else would have been cast; someone like Hulk Hogan or Jesse Ventura. That, notwithstanding, Butler is otherwise convincing in a role that doesn't seem real. In fact, there is a question to the truth of the story derived from the real Sam Childers' autobiography.


Now that the Civil War is pretty much over, it is odd that Hollywood has turned it's attention to Sudan. First with the earlier films concerning the Lost Boys, and now with "Machine Gun Preacher". It's time that peo-

ple realize that African is not all glorious landscapes and beautiful migrating herds of animals. Womn and children are killed on a regular basis; if not in Sudan, then in Rwanda, Mali, Congo, Togo, Benin and just about every other Black African country.


"Machine Gun Preacher" is significant in that it relates the ongoing barbaric civil unrest on our oldest continent. Gerard Butler puts forth a valiant effort that, save for his accent... is acceptably convincing.   -- GEOFF BURTON