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Sling Blade (1996)

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, more...
Director: Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Bob Thornton
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Miramax
Genre: Drama, Independent
Running Time: 135 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
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This title is currently out of print.

Sling Blade marked the directorial debut of country singer turned actor Billy Bob Thornton, who also authored the script (expanding George Hickenlooper's acclaimed short Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade) and stars in the picture. Thornton plays Karl Childers, a mildly retarded man who spent most of his life in a mental institution. When Karl was a boy, his abusive father (Robert Duvall) kept him locked in a shed. At age 12, Karl found his mother having intercourse with a man who tormented him endlessly; he snapped, flew into a homicidal rage, and killed both individuals by cutting off their heads with a lawnmower blade. Years later, as a middle-aged man, Karl is deemed harmless to society and released from the mental institution where he resides. Karl says he has learned his lesson and adds, "I reckon I got no reason to kill no one." He ends up in a small town where he's befriended by Frank (Lucas Black), the son of a widowed mother who sees the eccentric but open-hearted Karl as a kindred spirit. Karl also gets a job at a fix-it shop and resides in the backroom, until Frank's mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), takes a liking to Karl and lets him stay with them. However, Karl also meets Doyle (Dwight Yoakam), Linda's boyfriend, a sadistically cruel, narrow-minded drunk who tosses casual abuse at Frank, treats Linda like dirt, and mocks Karl endlessly. John Ritter co-stars as Linda's friend Vaughan, a mild-mannered homosexual who owns the neighborhood dollar store. Musicians Col. Bruce Hampton and Vic Chesnutt are among Doyle's party guests. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A Fascinating Charater Study by RJones3 January 5, 2009 - 8:48 AM PST
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
. . .if a bit contrived. From the frying pan to the fire is decidedly the direction Karl is taking on his release, especially in view his incredible lack of resources. We may be grateful at least that this was not a smarmy set piece about rehabilitation. Thornton is careful not to make Doyle too evil, just as he is careful not to make Karl too pure of heart. The tale has no simple moral. I could quibble with some of the details of plot and casting. Robert Duval was certainly wasted, if not miscast, as Karl's father, and Lucas Black as Frank is too wholesome to be a refugee from society. I was happy to see my old classmate Jim Walsh in one of his journeyman roles as a loquacious inmate, but shocked to learn that this was one of his last performances.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.52)
342 Votes
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