A partially handicapped man named Karl is released from a mental hospital, about 20 years after murdering his mother and another person. Karl is often questioned if he will ever kill again, and he shrugs in response saying there is no reason to. Now out of the mental institution, Karl settles in his old, small hometown, occupying himself by fixing motors. After meeting a young boy named Frank, who befriends him, Karl is invited to stay at Frank's house with his mother Linda, who views Karl as a strange but kind and generous man. However, Linda's abusive boyfriend, Doyle, sees things differently in the way rules ought to be run- normally insulting Linda's homosexual friend Vaughan as well as Karl's disabilities, and having wild parties with his friends. As Karl's relationship with Frank grows, he is watchful of Doyle's cruel actions. Written by
Surprisingly, this movie is not based on a true story, but it sure was Thornton's breakthrough in the movie business. I feel he sold out to the mainstream when he made the awful Armageddon. Thornton's Karl Childers is released from a mental insitution after 20 years from killing his mother as a child and returns to his backwoods Arkansas town with no family or friends to speak of, but befriends a fatherless boy and his mother. The entire cast is superb; Dwight Yoakum as a bigoted redneck, John Ritter as a gay store manager, Robert Duvall in a cameo as Thornton's almost catatonic father, Rick Dial (a boyhood friend of Thornton's) as Karl's genial boss, etc. The movie has just the right touch for life in the small-town south without the traditional Hollywood glamorization.
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