Sling Blade. Miramax Films. Billy Bob Thornton. Billy Bob Thornton, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Robert Duvall, Natalie Canerday, & Dwight Yoakam. 135 minutes. R.
After a long plane ride, and an even longer weekend spent in Williamsburg Virginia, I found myself back at my father’s house late Monday night.
I was exhausted; my stomach had been feeling nauseous since that morning, and I was dreading the trip back to Milwaukee the following day.
However, for whatever reason I could not able to fall asleep.
Rather than tossing and turning I decided it would be better to watch some TV, and explored the free list of On Demand movies.
I had seen parts of the film Sling Blade when I was much younger and decided that I needed to view the drama as a whole.
After seeing the movie in its entirety I can say with the utmost confidence that Sling Blade is one of the most phenomenal yet simplistic movies that has ever been made.
The film was released in 1996 by Miramax, and stars Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers, a mentally disabled man who murdered his mother and her lover using a sling blade when he was a young boy.
Sling Blade begins with Karl in a State Mental Hospital, where he has spent the greater majority of his life, one day before his release, and follows Karl as he returns to his childhood town.
Thornton’s powerful performance is the true driving force of this film. Through his physical mannerisms, aspects of speech, and even his appearance, Thornton becomes unrecognizable as he immerses himself within his character.
Not only did Thornton put forth a truly remarkable performance (in my opinion rivaling that of Daniel Day Lewis in There Will be Blood or Jamie Foxx in Ray), he also wrote the screenplay adaptation and directed Sling Blade. Earning him the two Academy Award nominations, Best Actor in a Leading Roll and Best Writing or Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. The later of which he won.
This is an even greater accomplishment when you consider that Thornton created the source material for an earlier short film called Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, in which he also wrote, directed and starred.
The movie takes off when Karl meets Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black), a young boy who quickly grows fond of Karl.
Karl is soon entrenched in the lives of Frank and his mother Linda, played by Natalie Canerday.
But just as Karl begins to find peace in the outside world, he is confronted by Linda’s alcoholic boyfriend Doyle (Dwight Yoakam).
As Doyle threats grow more frightening, the safety of Frank and Linda become increasingly threatened. Leading Karl to question his moral boundaries, confront his past, and decide how far he is willing to go to protect those he loves.
Other notable performances include John Ritter’s portrayal of Linda’s homosexual friend Vaughan Cunningham, who ironically attempts to hide his sexuality while it is comically obvious. As well Robert Duvall provides a brief, yet startling performance as Karl’s father.
Some lesser actors make the film suffer at times, but the core acting is at that of the finest.
As stated earlier, this is a simplistic movie. No huge budget, no great score or soundtrack, no revolutionary filming techniques used; rather it’s simply set up, shoot, and let the acting take over.
And it does.
If you haven’t seen Sling Blade, go see it, if you’ve seen it, see it again.
This is a near perfect film.
? ? ? ? ½ (out of 5)