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Filmmaking at it's Best
stepjohn5420 April 2003
As someone who loves good filmmaking, I rate this film among the best I've ever seen in all areas of the craft. Some of the criticisms of this film are hard to fathom.

The screenplay has the tight conciseness of a well-honed play (which this essentially was derived from) and doesn't fail to prick at the emotions and the intellect of the viewer. The photography, the casting and the editing all click together quite admirably.

However, I always marvel at the negative, emotionalized responses to otherwise superb films such as this by those who seem to miss the entire point of a movie like "Sling Blade".

I did not see a political message about abortion, or a justification of murder or even a backhanded putdown of the rural people of Arkansas. (Many of the characters were locals, by the way.) Some viewers are setting themselves up to be against this film since they are wearing their own feelings on their sleeves and fail to see the subtle layers of the story. They are seeing only the reflection of themselves on the surface of the water, rather than the complex world below.

Theater and film are rooted in images and characterizations designed to help us explore the human condition. It was once said that Tolstoy's voluminous novel "War and Peace" could be summed up in a single sentence thereby negating the need to write the book. Art is not a fast explanation, but a captivating and thought-provoking trip that hopefully forces us to think about our own motivations. Taking a one-dimensional view of this film might lead one to believe that Karl Childer's central message is that we should all eat biscuits smeared with mustard.

"Sling Blade" excels at the job of making us examine the terrible choices life gives us by providing a set of characters who interact in a moving, curious and revealing way. It is not reality nor is it political, but a method by which we can look at our own individual realities.

Others who seemed disenchanted with this film out-of-hand are those who found it "slow". Helloooo! This film is SUPPOSED to be slow and agonizingly so. It is carefully walking you to the conclusion, step-by-step, so you can squirm uncomfortably at the overall foreshadowing. It ain't an explosion-a-minute John Woo filmmaking and it certainly isn't light comedy, though it induces a surprising number of smiles.

This is a film that makes us look at true evil in the form of J.T. Walsh, Dwight Yoakum and Robert Duval's characters and compare it to the pure goodness of the damaged creature portrayed by Billy Bob Thornton, whose own brutalization leads him to seek justice in his own imperfect way.

To help those out who didn't "get" this film, I might recommend that you consider Thornton's character to be an amalgamation of Herman Melville's innocently homicidal protagonist in "Billy Budd" and Mary Shelley's sad monster Frankenstein. These characters, like Thornton's Karl Childers, were dramatic vehicles for the purpose of making us think. They did bad things but we were forced to view them compassionately because they reflected our own conflicting traits.

Don't read things into a film that aren't there, but don't ignore the interesting elements that are. Get those wheels upstairs turning and start enjoying intelligent filmmaking instead of merely seeking an excitement fix!
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emotionally shattering
dpenny5 February 2000
Warning: Spoilers
"Sling Blade" is an emotionally exhausting picture which establishes Billy Bob Thornton as one of our very best actors, writers, and directors. This story of a mentally handicapped man committed to a mental hospital for a childhood double murder, and his attempt to make it in the outside world, avoids the usual stereotypes about the closed-minded townsfolk and their prejudice against someone like Karl Childers, Thornton's character.

Indeed, upon his release Childers is given a mechanic's job and befriends a young boy, his widowed mother, and her gay best friend (played by an unrecognizable John Ritter). Unfortunately, the mother's drunken, violent boyfriend - Dwight Yoakam in a dark, effective performance - cannot accept Karl getting in the way of his relationship, and Childers must ultimately defend his new "family" the only way he knows how.

The tragedy of "Sling Blade" is that Childers is a basically gentle soul whose abusive childhood - his father (Robert Duvall in a cameo) and mother made him live in a shed behind the house - and marginal intelligence have made him unable to function without violence. More importantly, deep down Childers knows this; he knows he cannot function as a free man, and simply cannot protect the ones he loves without violence. The result is one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever seen in a movie. This film is one of the great movies of the decade. (9/10)
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Absolutely Amazing!
wdmickel18 April 2005
I can't believe it took me so long to finally see this movie and I must admit I had never seen any work by Billy Bob Thornton. Without a doubt, Sling Blade is one of the finest pieces of work ever put on film. Billy Bob's performance as Karl Childers is absolutely riveting! I found myself completely fascinated by this character. The entire ensemble of characters are superbly cast. The child actor who plays Frank is talented beyond his years. This story unfolds in many layers, with friendship and love woven between bigotry and cruelty. It begins with a somewhat horrible description of the double murder of Karl's mother and her lover, but yet is tastefully done with words, no cheap views of blood and gore. It shows how the lack of parental love and understanding can form an individual, but also how the human heart can still have the capacity to be open, as in the relationship between Karl and Frank. You'll feel completely drawn into this little family with its pain and problems.

This is a masterpiece of superb acting, writing and directing! If you haven't seen it yet, please don't deny yourself the opportunity of viewing one of the most amazingly touching movies you will ever see. Even in the company of great performances by Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman, I think Sling Blade leaves Forrest Gump and Rain Man in the dust!
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a modern American masterpiece
Buddy-5124 April 2006
Set in a small, rural Southern town, Billy Bob Thornton's "Sling Blade" is so flavorful in ambiance and tone, so rich in character and theme that it's hard to believe that its roots are not to be found in any short story or novel. For while it has all the earmarks of a great work of literature, "Sling Blade" is actually an original creation by Thornton, the triple threat talent who wrote, directed and stars in the work.

Karl Childers is a marginally retarded man who's been living in a mental institution ever since, as a child, he accidentally stumbled across his mother and her lover in a compromising position and, in a moment of considerable confusion, hacked the two of them to death. After being officially declared by the state to be "rehabilitated" and "cured," Karl is thrust back out into the world where he forms a bond with a fatherless boy, his hardworking, compassionate mother and a gay storeowner who has long since become a part of their extended family. Also part of that family is the widow's twisted boyfriend, Doyle Hargraves, who physically and psychologically abuses both mother and son.

Thanks to Carl's "strangeness" and homicidal background, as well as the simmering volatility and mercurial temperament of Doyle, there is always the threat of violence hanging ominously over the work. Yet, in many ways, "Sling Blade" is really about the goodness of people in their willingness to overlook external differences and to find the similarities that unite us all in a common bond of humanity. For the most part, the people in this quiet little community try to reach out and befriend Karl, sensing a decency in him that helps to mitigate any possible fear they might have of him based solely on surface eccentricities. Even when he is eventually forced into violent action, he does so as an avenging angel bringing swift and righteous justice, not as a murderous demon acting out of hatred or malice.

The acting in the film - beginning with Thornton himself - could not be more brilliant. With his stooped shoulders, tight-lipped smile, jutting jaw, vacant expression and guttural throat-clearing, Karl became the butt of so many jokes back when the movie first came out that it's easy to forget what a truly amazing character - and job of acting - Thornton has pulled off here. The actor we've known from so many other movies is completely invisible in this role, as he literally becomes Karl in every fiber of his being and, in so doing, forces us to see the wisdom and humanity buried deep inside the person. The performance is such a touchstone of acting for our generation that it is easy to miss all the other great acting in the film, particularly on the part of Natalie Canerday, Lucas Black, John Ritter, J.T. Walsh, Robert Duvall and, most especially, Dwight Yoakam, whose portrayal of a man teetering on the edge of a psychopathic meltdown is bone-chilling and brilliant.

As a writer, Thornton has shaped his film like a modern day parable - simple, symbol-laden and allegorical. As a director, he proves himself a master of rhythm and pacing, setting the mood and allowing the scenes to play themselves out without recourse to overstatement or melodrama. In fact, this is one of those rare movies in which every moment feels just right, so confident is Thornton in his ability as a filmmaker to bring his story to life on screen. He also knows how to make the bucolic setting come across as both stark and sensuous at the same time, a place of quiet stillness that provides the perfect backdrop for the morality tale he is endeavoring to tell. Finally, Daniel Lanois has provided a haunting musical score that ever so subtly draws us into the disturbingly offbeat world of the drama.

"Sling Blade" earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Thornton, but he should also have won awards for his directing and his performance as Karl, not to mention the film itself which should have won the honor as Best Picture of 1996 - although Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, failed even to nominate it. Ah well, even with that lapse in judgment, "Sling Blade" remains one of the great movie dramas of the past decade.
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Amazing and Mesmerizing
sandspider117 April 2003
This film is a perfect example of how a film should be made. It has everything, good cast, good script, good performances everything is perfect. This has to be one of my all time favourite films and Billy Bob Thornton is a good a writer and director as he is an actor. The Oscar for best adapted screenplay was well deserved and it shocks me that Billy Bob didn't win the oscar for best actor. I bought this film on DVD and it is a shame you do not get any features but I hope they will release a special edition with contribution from the writer, actor and director himself. I urge everyone to watch this film because it is funny, emotional, enjoyable and just plain brilliant. 10/10
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Convincing and thought provoking.
theENK1 March 2004
Sling Blade is a very well acted, well displayed, and interesting masterpiece. I just loved it from beginning to end.

First I would like to comment on the excellent acting across the board, especially the late John Ritter and Billy Bob Thornton's ensemble portrayal of Karl. I could not help but feel very attached to Karl from the opening scene, his release from the mental institution, his struggles with the outside world, and how he related to the town people. Sling Blade is one of those movies that I would love to sit down and talk about for hours with a friend. I would also love to hear others' perspectives about what made this movie great.

It seems that every scene was worked to perfection. From the lighting and camera's viewpoint to the acting and music. I enjoyed every scene, but thought that three really stood out. Without giving too much away, they are as follows. No spoilers here:

1. Inside the house after band practice where Karl does not move from the couch.

2. When Karl is visited at work and we see him make eye contact for the first time.

3. The scene where Karl is in the garage late at night. The chilling music really captures the mood. My heart was pounding during this one!

I hold Mr. Thornton to a very high respect. He created a masterpiece that is emotional, thrilling, dramatic, humorous, and entertaining.
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Thoroughly Thornton!
DeeDee-1028 April 1999
A magnificent film! Watching Billy Bob, I was reminded of Bo Radley (Robert Duvall)in To Kill a Mockingbird. The irony of seeing Duvall in Sling Blade made it that much more rewarding. Yes, it's true, the ending was inevitable, but so what? The journey to the end was what made this film the gem that it is. Dwight Yoakam made my skin crawl, and Lucas Black as little Frank brought out my motherhood instinct. Protect that boy, Karl! And he did. This had all the elements of a great film: an unselfish hero who brings about changes in the lives of others in a meaningful way. Granted, had his mental capabilities been greater he might have made another choice. Given the circumstances of the film, there was no other choice.
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Probably one of Thornton's finest movies
philip_vanderveken25 August 2005
I guess the main reason why I wanted to see this movie was because it was written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, who also played a role in it. Even though the man hasn't really been able to prove a lot with his work as a director, I must say that I almost always appreciate him as an actor. He's perhaps not the most popular actor in Hollywood, but in my opinion he sure is one of the better ones.

In this movie he plays the role of Karl Childers, a grown, but simple man who is released from the psychiatric hospital where he has been hospitalized since the age of twelve. He had to stay in that hospital for so long because he murdered his own mother and her lover, believing that they were doing something wrong. He returns to the town where he lived the first twelve years of his life and it doesn't take long for him to get a job as a mechanic, fixing all kinds of small motors at a local repair shop. In the same town he also meets Frank, a young and friendly boy who immediately seems to like this strange man. Soon Karl is invited by Frank's mother to stay in their garage, much against the will of her alcoholic and abusive boyfriend Doyle. While Karl's friendship with Frank gets stronger, the tension between him and Doyle keeps building up, until reaching its final climax...

Now that I've finally seen this movie, I can only say that it's too bad that I didn't give it a try earlier. Especially thanks to the magnificent performance by Billy Bob Thornton, this is a movie that is more than just worth a watch. But also the other actors like Dwight Yoakam, Natalie Canerday,... did a very good job. The entire movie feels very realistic, is quite sober and never tries to be too dramatic. This is the kind of movie that could have become very preachy, but it hasn't and that's something that I really appreciate. Add to this some good directing and you know that Thornton has done a very nice job with this movie.

This isn't exactly a typical Hollywood movie, not in its story and certainly not in its approach towards the subject. This could easily have become some kind of cheesy TV-movie, but Billy Bob Thornton has made a very good movie out of it instead. I really appreciated his work as a director, actor and writer in this movie, liked the story and was intrigued by the acting of all the actors. That's why I give it a 7.5/10, maybe even an 8/10.
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cosmo_kramer-326 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Only one word can describe the performance of Billy Bob Thornton...amazing. I really had no respect for him before. His behaviors, his antics, the way the media portrayal him...feels like he is just playing himself in the slimeball and lowlife roles that he is usually seen as in his movie. Never really understood why he gets work at all. Anyone can play a slimeball...

Then I watched Sling Blade a couple of months ago...I was simply shocked. I was shocked even further when I learned that he starred, directed and even wrote the screenplay. The film was magnificent.

First, the storytelling was great. It was very strait forward and it was in a chronological order. It did not jump, as time moved forward and one got a grip of Karl and other character's past from the conversations and the places that they visited. It was very easy to follow and the characters were very well developed, even those that had only a few scenes.

Then, the directing was great. Even though the film was slow, not once did it ever became dull or boring for me. Even though there was nothing too exciting happening, the movie gripped me and I was following it till the end. I was feeling scared and sad during the climax where Karl killed Doyle, feeling sympathy towards Karl and the different characters as they began to reveal their stories and feeling warmhearted as the people welcomed a stranger with open arms.

Next, the supporting cast was great. They all gave heartwarming and convincing efforts. Without them, this movie would not be complete.

Finally, and the most important element of all, Billy Bob Thornton's portrayal was so real. His expressions, his reactions, his walk, his eye focus...everything that he did convinced me that he was actually mentally handicapped. I got completely lost within his character and it was him who kept me interested as the story unfolded. Then I heard the work and sacrifices that he made for this film (putting glass in his shoes so he can have the awkward kind of walk) made me respect him even more.

This movie is great. Very recommended. 9/10
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You Ought Not Pass on this Movie
view_and_review8 October 2015
I remember first watching Sling Blade and thinking, "Oh no, here is a Forest Gump copycat." After all, the main character, Karl (Billy Bob Thornton) was mentally challenged and they were in the South. In reality, that's where the similarities stopped, but I didn't know that at the time. The second detractor for me was Billy Bob Thornton. I had only seen Billy Bob in one movie before Sling Blade and that was Bad Santa (yes I saw Sling Blade for the first time that many years later) and I thought that movie was dreadful, hence my impression of Billy Bob was also negative.

Sling Blade was a welcome surprise. Billy Bob did an excellent job with the role and of course I was doubly surprised to see that he had written and directed the movie.

Sling Blade was terrific in its simplicity. Karl was a simple man, he lived with simple folks in a simple town. That's not to say that they were without problems. Karl's mental handicap, Linda Wheatley's (Natalie Canderday) man issues, Frank Wheatley's (Lucas Black) fatherless issues, Doyle's (Dwight Yoakam) drinking problem, et al. For the simplicity of it all it was simply perfect.
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Billy Bob's Break
Smells_Like_Cheese3 March 2007
I was watching I love the 90's with my sister last night and the mentioned Sling Blade, I remember trying to watching this when I was younger, but I couldn't get through it. Figuring now that I'm a little older to give it a chance and I'm glad I did, I just watched it last night and I was extremely impressed with the fact that this was Billy Bob's first movie, not only did he act in it, but he also wrote and directed it as well. It was like Forrest Gump meets Silence of the Lambs, it was a movie that kept your nerves up and your curiosity going into what would happen next.

Karl is a slow man who has just been released from the mental institution for killing his mom and her boyfriend when he was a child. When he is released into town, he has no where to stay, but then he meets a young boy who he befriends, the boy has no father and asks his mom if Karl can stay with them, she agrees to it. But their lives are far from perfect, they have an extremely abusive man in their lives, Doyle, who threatens their lives on a daily basis. Karl wants to protect them, but it may lead him back into the life that he was just told he was "well" from.

Sling Blade is a very well acted movie that despite it's length, it keeps you going. The characters are so well thought out, it's hard to choose who was the break out actor of the film. But Billy in his first major role, he was just amazing, he looked so calm and relaxing, but yet you didn't know what he was going to do next. John Ritter was also amazing, his character was so sympathetic and beautiful. I would highly recommend this movie, it's a terrific dark drama that deserves it's praise.

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A Scythe Through Reality...
Xstal19 September 2020
It's impossible to ignore the incredible performance of Billy Bob Thornton as Karl. This is what acting is all about - the portrayal and mimicry of the real world as opposed to dressing up as someone else and being yourself (Michael Cane always springs to mind but they are legion in number these types of actor). Sadly, that is the only compliment I can pay, as the finale is the most predictable yet unrealistic you're likely to encounter and, if you are of the mind that you have witnessed justice take place, then heaven help anyone you may sit on a jury and try - because that's what they'll need if there's more than one of you in attendance.
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Tater thoughts---10/10.
highclark31 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
First off, while trying to describe what is great about this movie, one need to look no further than the stand out performance given by Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers, a retarded man just released from a mental facility after having paid off his debt to society for a murder he committed as a boy. Certainly one could look beyond Thornton's performance to find many outstanding performances (there isn't a bad one in the bunch) by the supporting cast, but I think it's important to highlight Billy Bob Thornton's performance.

What is usually pointed out, or at least referred to at length in describing Thornton's portrayal, centers around his extended jaw with his shovel wide grin, the slumped shoulders, and always, without fail, the gravelly "mmm, himh" voice. And while all of that is quite impressive, especially in that it did not require the use of masks or extended layers of make up to transform his appearance, what is impressive, and actually astonishing, is how Thornton can express outwardly through his body language and eye movements the complex inner workings that are central to the character of Karl Childers. It is in this way that Thornton's portrayal succeeds and allows us to invest our belief into his character; you can see the mind of Karl Childer at work, even if all he's thinking about is eating tater tots.

Reviewers have also pointed out that there's a connection between the character of Karl Childers and that of Forrest Gump. Really? I don't see it. I think if anything, the character of Karl Childers owes more to that of Chauncey Gardiner in 'Being There' than that of Forrest Gump, a lot more. Both Gardiner and Childers have a steady calm about them that in no way resembles the jumbled nervous 'bumper sticker' speak of Forrest Gump. The delivery from Childers and Gardiner is very slow and mannered and occasionally with a keen perception. With Gardiner, it's manifested through double entendre or through a misunderstanding of intent, with Childers, especially when Childers is talking with the young boy Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black), his insights come from the heart, in a parental tone, however they seem to do the young boy as much good as they do for Childers. Just like the performance that Peter Sellers gave as Chauncey Gardiner in 'Being There', the performance from Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers in 'Sling Blade' would garner an Oscar nomination, but no Oscar.

What should also be noted is the speed of the movie. This has everything to do with respect to the main character, Childers. If ever a movie captured the right speed in which to tell its story, it would be 'Sling Blade'. This tactic allows the viewer to think about and to feel the emotional turns of the movie as its story unfolds. We can invest ourselves emotionally into the plot of the movie, even though we can, more or less, guess accurately at its outcome.

The notable supporting cast is led by the excellent performance of Dwight Yoakam as Doyle Hargraves, the violent and verbally abusive boyfriend to Linda Wheatley (Natalie Canerday). Doyle knowingly makes life a living hell for Linda and young Frank. The angst building inside of Frank comes to a climax after Doyle becomes drunk and abusive to Frank's mother. Frank rifles beer can after beer can at Doyle, and although it stops Doyle's initial attack, it only serves as a slight reprieve; the real ugliness is to follow.

Along with Yoakam and Lucas, the performances from John Ritter and J.T. Walsh stand out as very memorable. This is a movie that will stay with you long after it is finished. I don't think it matters too much about how the ending takes place, or whether it is predictable or not. What resonates, or what matters, is in watching these characters develop and come to understand their situation, or their lot in life, and in most cases, learn to live with or without one another.

'Sling Blade' is easily one of the best movies of 1996.

10/10. Clark Richards
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" How does a feller go about getting a'hold of the police ?
thinker169113 March 2009
Across the continent of America, many a folk story or backwoods' hero emerges to make its mark across the silver screen. These stories can be whimsical, mirthful or oftentimes so dramatic as to capture our very soul. Such a story is " Sling Blade " written, directed and staring Billy Bob Thornton. His quiet but dynamic story is about Karl Childers, a mentally retarded man who was incarcerated in the state Mental hospital for a duel murder. Years later the state has released him back into society where he meets and befriends a young boy. (Lucas Black) The boy's mother invites Karl to live with them, which doesn't bother anyone except the new boyfriend, Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam). Hargraves attempts to impose his drunken, abusive authority on the household which leads to direct confrontation with Karl. This awkward situation chafes on Hargraves who demands the boy and his mother throw the 'retard' out. At the same time Karl warns him, if he attempts to harm either one, he will prevent it. John Ritter plays Vaughan Cunningham a gay friend of the family and perhaps a most powerful if not courageous role for the lovable TV. star. J.T. Walsh is utterly convincing when he plays Charles Bushman an annoying and insufferable patient at the mental hospital. The story is serious, dramatic, suspense-fully cathartic and in every way darkly entertainingly. Billy Bob Thornton is incredibly perfect as the simple man with a straight forward role which is sure to earn it's rightful place as a Classic. ****
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The one that made Billy.
DukeEman3 January 2002
Thornton plays victim to a cruel society where he is released from a long stint in prison and becomes a guardian angel for a young boy who is abused by his mother's lover. A slow sombre piece that gives you time to enter the mental state of Thornton's character. Once you are in there, you realise the humanity that justifies the end actions. Theatrical in style with powerful performances and a haunting music score.
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Memorable Movie about the Heart
fawn_jane24 January 2015
After watching this movie, I just think, "wow, I'll never forget this..."

You just have to see to understand. The plot is nothing riveting on paper. The merit of this movie is all about the wonderful acting performances. Besides Billy-Bob of course, I especially thought the actor who played the young boy was amazing. Ritter's portrayal of a flaming gay man is charming without being over-the-top.

I can see someone disliking the movie, it is kind of slow-paced, and full of simple, unglamorous southern people living their unglamorous lives.

To me this movie is about how difficult it is to live in this dangerous, complicated world with an open heart. It's about the banality of evil, and the struggle to cope with a world that's full of that evil: A world where the employer abuses the worker, then the worker comes home and beats his kid, and then the kid grows up to be someone who continues the cycle. A world where those with mental disabilities have nowhere to go, and where mothers are forced to depend on abusers to provide for themselves and their kids.

Karl is supposed to be "mentally challenged" and "different", but I interpret his role as representing the inner child inside of all of us. Throughout the movie he demonstrates a simple kind of wisdom, he is the voice of common-sense. I thought the movie would be about him getting into conflicts due to misunderstanding, or people rejecting him. Instead his character behaves quite rationally, and he is adept at connecting with and winning the trust of the people around him. He acts odd but he demonstrates a level of social intelligence that many "normal" people lack. His characteristic tone of voice seems to represent someone who speaks from their gut, but is struggling and subconsciously hesitant to express themselves because they are just so full of feeling that they just shut down somewhere along the line because they had nowhere appropriate to direct and express all that emotional energy.

Watching Thornton play Karl is touching because it connects you that simple, innocent, yet dangerous part of yourself. The heart of you that just wants to live life, enjoy the simple things, the part of you that dares to long for a world where children don't suffer, where there are answers and justice.
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Interesting and Entertaining
JVIRT9926 March 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Sling Blade was a highly interesting and suprisingly entertaining movie. It was very well acted by everyone involved and was uniquely directed in a professional manner by Billy Bob Thornton.

There were two things that struck me odd about this movie and both seemed somewhat comical at times. The first being the easy way all the characters seemed to accept Karl for what he was, a mentally challenged killer just released from the State Mental Hospital. The second was the obvious fact that almost every individual character in this movie on some level, displayed a dysfunctional nature to their behavior and attitude. No one seemed truly happy or even content with their lives!

The first half of Sling Blade was indeed very emotional at times and uplifting in a strange sort of way. You were given the impression that Karl would somehow overcome and escape his horrible past. That he would find a way to fit into society and function with an acceptable level of awareness. Obviously that didn't happen as the second half of the film took a different direction.

As much as the first half of this movie was enlightening the second half became a dark study of THE violent anger that exists in all human beings and how it can adversely effect those people at the center of it all. It attempted to show how some people can control their anger and how some people let their anger control them for whatever reason(s). This was played out two-fold by the Karl and Doyle characters.

The film was a good off beat portrayal of subject matter that is not always a properly understood or accepted part of the human condition. Both physically and mentally challenged people deserve opportunities that allow them to be a part of society. Karl was of course a gross exception and should never, ever have been released from the State Mental Hospital.

What clearly comes out of this movie is the existence of a mind-set that looks down upon those people less fortunate or those less gifted then others in our society. The ability to overlook others shortcomings is very difficult for many individuals. Whether those shortcomings are self-inflicted, inflicted by society or acquired at birth....all in all we aren't a very forgiving people as history has proved time and again. Sling Blade offers a small glimpse of this reality to those that are willing to pay attention.
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Genuine filmmaking masterpiece - one of a kind! Verdict 100/100
UniqueParticle14 June 2019
Memorable piece of art and Billy Bob Thornton really did something special that can't be done again! I reckon it was difficult to make overall - I've even listened to the commentary, the film was a sweet gift to his family. Dwight Yoakam was great as a jerk, as always with most things I've seen, also J.T. Walsh was a wonderful actor, cool to see Jim Jarmusch towards the beginning. Very much deserving of its Oscar wins or other awards! Nice nurturing and abusive craftily film.
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Does 15 Years Make A Great Film A Classic?
waveparticl18 March 2011
I've seen Billy Bob Thorton's work before: 'Tombstone'(1993), 'Armageddon' (1998), 'Pushing Tin' (1999), and 'Bad Santa' (2003) among others. While Thorton appeared a capable actor, I never could appreciate why he was so revered in the mid to late 90's.

Until I finally witnessed 'Sling Blade' 15 years later after its release.

The film itself, about a mentally challenged man sent to a mental institution for the criminally insane at the age of 12 and life after his release, is about as complete a film as you will ever find. The dialog is superb, the settings are superb, camera work is superb. The supporting characters are superb even though some of the acting leaves something to be desired. They often feel sweet and disarming which seems to contrast with the fine acting skills brought by Thorton and other main characters.

The choice of shots is often gripping when they are unexpected. Most of the film is unremarkable in angles and use of perspectives but every once in awhile, at just the right moment, the director gets you. There is a bridge Thorton's character Karl crosses. The bridge is shown twice and Karl pauses in the same place each time at the vertex of two trusses. These shots are visually engrossing as your eye cannot help but follow the lines leading to this character you grow to admire and love.

The dialog is unadorned. Language is not used to impress but to express the character's personality without any pretension. I particularly find two scenes engrossing. The first is a domestic argument between Linda Wheatley who took Karl in and her abusive boyfriend Doyle. We see Linda take a stand which belied the inner strength we thought she did not possess but she never cursed; she just stood her ground and let her son Frank, who was about 12, throw cans at Doyle and vent his bottled anger at him. Another is a well referenced interplay between Frank and Karl. When anyone asks why Frank likes Karl the answer is simple: "I like the way he talks." After Karl moves into Linda's garage, Frank states "I like the way you talk," to which Karl replies "I like the way you talk too." The entire movie avoids delusions of grandeur by any of its characters which allows us to fully appreciate what they try to say instead of admiring how they say it.

The plot is divine but the real gem of this movie is the gifts Billy Bob Thorton delivered. His character Karl is indelible and will likely eternally live on as a classic. As the screenwriter and director, Thorton knew at all turns what he wanted from each character and the actors selected were fantastic. John Ritter as Vaughn, Dwight Yoakum as Doyle, Robert Duvall as Karl's father and other accomplished actors kept to the simple idea of being nothing more than their character warranted. In the end, the simple prevailed and the climax was the most satisfying anti-climax ever; the most appropriate description for it may be 'sublime'.

I still do not have an appreciation for Billy Bob Thorton as a person but I can now say about his rocket rise to praise and fame: "Now I get it." It has been 15 years and in my opinion, 'Sling Blade' is already a classic.
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Good for so many reasons - SPOILER
Vegaskid1 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I've had this film for quite a while and never got around to watching it. Shame on me, as it is a stunning piece of work.

BB Thornton's character portrayal of Karl is flawless. He effortlessly seems to become Karl i.e. I never once thought that the actor Thornton was on my screen.

I think the most impressive and at the same disturbing aspect of this film was its ability to shame me. I was ashamed of the fact that I was waiting for the moment that Karl would go in to a violent frenzy and was wondering which characters would suffer his wrath. At the same time, I was aware of my 'shortcomings' and was constantly hoping that it wouldn't come to that. Of course, it was excellent writing and acting that had me thinking at the back of my mind that a violent outburst was on its way.

As the relationship between Doyle and Linda slowly took the inevitable downward spiral, I realised that there would be no happy ending. The way in which it happened surprised me completely though. No frenzied blood bath, no signs of enjoyment from Karl. Just two simple blows and the job was finished. The fact that he had asked Doyle what to do afterwards simply blew my mind.

Clues were given throughout the entire film as to Karl's persona, his level of understanding and intelligence. Whilst he struggled with some of the basic day to day things, his insight in to human nature surpassed most of the other characters in the film.

Within minutes of the film starting, I felt I had been touched, that I was watching a very special story unfold. I found myself trying to imagine what the best ending would be. Would they all live happily ever after? Would Karl wear Doyle's scalp as a hat and drive through 3 states in an open top? (OK, maybe not quite so severe!). Nah, these endings would have destroyed what was a very delicate story. Karl's sacrifice for the boy and his mum was the perfect ending in my opinion.

Apart from BBT, there were some other great performances, particularly the boy and the gay friend. In fact I found only one part in the entire film to stand out as slightly 'forced' which was when Karl's boss comments on the speedy repair of the mower stating that the other guy said it wasn't repairable. Apart from that, 10/10 for the acting.

Thanks to BBT for giving me the opportunity to see this great film.
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A complicated hero.
SmileysWorld12 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Here we have the story of a good hearted,mentally challenged man who does not like to see the people he loves suffer.The source of their suffering happens to come in the human form.Karl Childers,this mentally challenged man,chooses to eliminate the suffering in the only way he knows how,wrong though it may be.He is willing to give up his own happiness,so that they may be happy.This is a very complex story which can be viewed from many different angles.In my opinion,it is a very sad story because here we have a man,suddenly free after years of treatment in a mental institution,willing to give it all away for the people he calls his friends.A hardly recognizable Billy Bob Thornton gives an exceptionally good performance as Karl,not to mention giving excellent direction from behind the camera as well.A surprising turn by Dwight Yoakam as the closed minded Doyle Hargraves,though I feel his ignorance was not his own fault,as we are all a product of our upbringing.A good movie,with good performances all around in a very complex story.
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Wow...... Intense.
The_Dinosaur24 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a intense movie but at times can be funny. I did not really want to watch this but ended up doing so and I loved it. Billy-Bob Thorton does a great job playing a mentally handicapped person. In my view He does a much better job then Sean Penn did in 'I am Sam'.

This is a sometimes disturbing, sometimes heartwarming movie which can really show you what life can be like for some people. It takes us into all sorts of topics like, religion, homosexuality, sexism etc.

As the movie approaches it's conclusion the music becomes more and more intense and right at the conclusion it just goes silent. This just grabbed my attention and I could not stop watching it. Every part of this movie is perfect and everybody should see this. It is just great.
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One of the best movies I have seen
denzil-0943417 December 2017
I'm not going to go in to detail. This movie is a moving study of the decency and beauty of ordinary people. I can hardly believe that I missed it on release. Billy Bob Thornton has been one of my favourite actors for many years but this performance simply blew me away. He proves himself in the Steve Carrell class of actors who can take on a character to the extent that you can't even tell who he is.

One of the best movies ever made.
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My favorite movie of all time
samslaydon2 September 2016
Despite Billy Bob Thornton's "Carl" voice being mocked ad nauseum, this IMO is one of the best movies ever made. The originality of the story and the main character are genius. Plot points are backed, not so much by established story lines, but by the richness of the characters from Frank's need for a father figure, Karl's need to be accepted, Doyle's redneck prejudices and Vaughn's identity as a gay man in a small southern town. These are very shallow explanations for the richness of each character, but the story line cannot be beat down to the somewhat tragic but salvational ending. If you haven't seen this movie, it is the best of BB Thornton's directorial efforts and extremely tough to beat for filmmaking.
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