Gerard Butler in 'Machine Gun Preacher': What Critics Are Saying

The Marc Forster-directed film is "a terrific fit" for Butler's "brand of soulful aggression -- half saint, half psychopath," writes one reviewer.

Gerard Butler returns to the big screen with director Marc Foster's Machine Gun Preacher, a true story about the life of ex-con, biker and hellraiser Sam Childers, who ended up building a community church in Pennsylvania and preaching there. Reviews have been trickling in ever since it screened at the Toronto Film Festival and many have praised Butler's performance. The film is out in theaters Friday, Sept. 23.

The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt writes that "critics will rave about Gerard Butler's fast-and-furious performance as Sam Childers. But one can't escape the nagging feeling that the film doesn't dig deeply enough into its real-life hero. The film doesn't explore all those 'whys' and whats.' "

The Guardian's Catherine Shoard writes that the film is "a terrific fit for his own brand of soulful aggression -- half saint, half psychopath." But she did bring up some things that lacked, including the fact that the film never explains what "Childers' enemies are fighting for, or much about the background of the conflict." Even so, she gave the film three out of five stars, making note that Butler also executive produced the project.

Meanwhile, Drew McWeeny at HitFix gave Machine Gun Preacher a relatively negative review, saying that the Butler-headlined action feature was strange and overly sincere, but to his credit, noted that Butler "gives a genuinely impassioned performance" and "dos his very best to give some sort of rough-hewn life to the character."

Ultimately, he writes, "I think Machine Gun Preacher means well, but even knowing that Sam is a real person, this film still ultimately feels like yet another movie in which it takes a white man from outside the culture to come save all the backwards natives from themselves and and making it a movie that focuses on kids feels like a cheap shortcut to sentiment."

Indiewire's Gabe Toro calls Machine Gun Preacher something of a Rambo, the Sylvester Stallone film released a few years prior. "Butler can’t really play nuance as much as he can scowl, brood and posture. But he sure makes a hell of an entrance — after a brief opening where we see the strife of the Sudanese people, Butler struts out of prison with a glower and a mullet, cursing off the guards," he recalls, declaring that the film doesn't showcase Butler; instead, it's "Rambo done wrong."