Machine Gun Preacher Trailer: Gerard Butler is a Badass with a Heart

We all know that Gerard Butler is a badass. Ever since he as King Leonidas kicked a poor old Persian messenger down a well in the opening scenes of 300, you had to know Hollywood had found a special type of action star. Now, the movie industry isn't what it used to be during the days of Arnold Schwarzenegger and when Bruce Willis was in his prime. Action stars like Butler are harder to really solidify, because, well, people take those kinds of movies way too seriously these days.

I'm not about to deny that Butler hasn't been in a few clunkers. "Gamer "could have been a lot better, and I won't even try and talk about his foray into the romantic comedy genre in "The Bounty Hunter", but generally speaking, the guy knows and has what it takes to be a proper action star.

But looking at the trailer for his latest film, "Machine Gun Preacher", it looks as if we're about to see the "make or break" point of his action career.

In the film, Butler plays real-life ex-biker Sam Childers, who makes a life-changing decision to leave behind his life of drugs and crime and travel to Africa in order to rebuild homes destroyed by civil war and to save children. When he gets there, he is outraged by the atrocities that he sees, he goes against the local, brutal militia that enslaves children, and acquires many guns in order to save even more children.

Here's the trailer:

The plot and presentation don't really seem to defy any conventions. We've seen it before. Man gets into trouble, man goes somewhere to redeem himself, kills a bunch of bad guys in the process. As a matter of fact, the premise is pretty much EXACTLY the same concept as 24: Redemption, the 2008 TV movie made to link seasons 6 and 7 of 24, that saw Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) travel to Africa after everything was taken away from him and his country bled him dry in order to save it. Once he's there, he runs into some evil doers in the form of a local militia, and must engage badass mode in order to save more children.

But what allows me to get over this obvious derivative plot is that it's based on a true story. Sam Childers is a real dude, and although some of his actions are sure to be exaggerated in the film, he actually did do a lot of these things, and he's an actual, real-life hero. And usually when these films are "based on a true story", they tend to be pretty entertaining. Especially when you throw in a couple of bazookas.

Plus, the movie has a badass poster (click to enlarge):

The only thing that has me worried is the film's director, Marc Foster, who's taken a turn for the worst (Quantum of Solace) after starting off strong earlier in the decade (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland).

I said at the beginning of this article that "Machine Gun Preacher" could "make or break" Gerard Butler's career. This is because after a strong start and a couple of solid action flicks, it seems like he's softened up on us. And that's okay. Even the grittiest action stars need to have a softer side, and know how to properly channel their inner hero. This may sound cheesy, but Butler can't play King Leonidas in every movie. Yes, I want to see him kick idiots off cliffs, and go on rage killing sprees, but at some point, he has to show some acting chops. And that time is now.

"Machine Gun Preacher" hits theaters September 23, 2011, and stars Gerard Butler, Michael Shannon, and Michelle Monaghan.