Machine Gun Preacher (2011) and 6 Bullets (2012)

Posted on June 4, 2014


Let’s start by summarizing the two films.

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)


Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) starts going to church when he’s on parole. A violent, drug-dealing, biker, he finds God, but it’s not enough. He founds a “come as you are” ministry, testifying about his own past and talking to his parish as equals. It’s still not enough for him. When he hears about a mission in Sudan that needs help, he goes there. He discovers a Christian orphanage regularly raided by militias. Childers decides that can’t go on, and commits himself to their defense.


6 Bullets (2012)


Samson Gaul (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a former mercenary living in Eastern Europe. He works rescuing victims from human traffickers, until one of his rescues goes wrong. He gets his girl out, but other victims die. He retires and becomes a butcher, and a drunk. Andrew Fayden (Joe Flanigan) is an MMA fighter whose daughter is kidnapped. He gets Gaul out of retirement, and together they stop at nothing to complete the rescue.


Short Version

Machine Gun Preacher has the better budget, but lacks suspense. 6 Bullets is much more suspenseful, even though it’s not as well made.

Long Version

There comes a point when action sequences are boring. You’ve seen them all, and you don’t care anymore. Visually exciting movies may briefly catch your interest, but that doesn’t last.

Occasionally, though, an action scene grabs you. That’s because the interesting action sequence is suspenseful.

Machine Gun Preacher, while a good movie and well worth seeing, has boring action scenes. You know Sam Childers is going to live, at least until the last battle. So you know he’s never in any real danger. Since you can assume the outcome before the action even starts, any suspense dies.


How do you know the outcome? Because the filmmakers paid for Gerard Butler to play Sam Childers. Yes, they also paid for Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, and Kathy Baker, but Butler’s character is the one in Africa facing danger. Butler opens the movie. He’s the reason people come to see it. You can’t kill him.

Plus, Sam Childers is a real guy who is really still working to save kids in the Sudan. Killing the movie character would be too big a deviation from his story.


6 Bullets, on the other hand, has no big budget actors. Jean-Claude Van Damme used to be a big budget action star. He’s acknowledged that he made a lot of mistakes (and did a lot of coke). He freely admits that he has to work hard to make any kind of comeback. So let’s cut him some slack.

Joe Flanigan is well-known to geeks (like me) for playing Lt. Colonel John Sheppard on Stargate: Atlantis. He’s a fine actor, but no A-lister. Yet.


So in this movie, you never know if either Gaul or Fayden is going to survive an encounter. Also, because there is an investigative aspect to the story, action sequences affect how the story proceeds rather than if it succeeds. This makes each sequence suspenseful.

Sadly, they can’t sustain it for the final sequence. The bad guys are generic, there’s nothing visually interesting about the final fight, and you can assume a happy ending going into it.


Good writing is important. A big star can open a movie, but a taut script gives it legs. On the other hand, a good script needs names attached to it or it won’t get a wide release.


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Posted in: Movies