Sling Blade (1996)

Who is Billy Bob Thornton?  Well, he's an actor (DEAD MAN, INDECENT 
A FAMILY THING), and, now, a director.  SLING BLADE, the story of a 
gentle giant who returns to his rural Arkansas hometown years after 
murdering his mother and his mother's lover, is Thornton's first 
time behind the camera.  His direction is good, very good, but his 
writing and acting-- both on display here-- are the stuff of Oscar 
nominations.  (And the stuff of head-scratching.  I wonder how many 
people think that Joe Bob *Briggs* is up for Best Actor and Best 
Adapted Screenplay?)  Thornton's performance as Karl, the slow-
moving, slower-speaking small-engine whiz, is mesmerizing.  He's 
Forrest Gump with fewer laughs and darker thoughts.  Much darker 
thoughts.  Karl ends up staying with a young boy (Lucas Black) and 
his single mom (Natalie Canerday) and, after we've met her abusive 
boyfriend (Dwight Yoakam, excellent), the outcome of the story is 
no longer in question.  SLING BLADE is many things, including a 
catalog of unspeakable small-town (Southern?) horrors.  No, nothing 
is shown on screen, but they add a grim-- and at times gruesome-- 
subtext to an equally endearing and, even, hilarious tale.  Uh huh.  
(Rated "R"/125 min.)

Grade: A

Copyright 1997 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: February 19, 1997

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