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Sling Blade

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Sling Blade

Starring: Dwight Yoakam, Billy Bob Thorton
Director: Billy Bob Thorton
Rated: R
RunTime: 135 Minutes
Release Date: November 1996
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Brent Briscoe, Christy Ward, J.T. Walsh, James Hampton, Jim Jarmusch, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Robert Duvall

Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

Actor, writer and director Billy Bob Thornton has created a sharply perceptive film entitled 'Sling Blade'. A mentally retarted, middle aged man named Carl (Billy Bob Thornton) is released from a mental institution where he was sent as a young boy for murdering his mother and her lover after catching them red handed at commiting adultery. The film begins with the surroundings of the institution where Carl mingles with other patients of the asylum and grants an interview with the assistance of his doctor to a young girl writing for her school newspaper. There is a monlogue of eerie dialogue in which the camera doesn't cut away for quite sometime as Carl is speaking which instantly develops his character quickly, drawing the audience in and making Carl a strong protagonist.

Carl is due for release a short time later, and tells his doctor that the hospital is all he's ever known and that he wants to stay. The kindness shown by his doctor helps Carl greatly as he lands a job fixing small engines for farm and gardening equipment at a local shop and Carl befriends a young boy during the process of his release and comes to find that the boy's mother is involved in a relationship with an abusive man (Dwight Yokum). His mother's best friend is the manager of a supermarket (John Ritter --- yes, that's right, Jack Tripper from 'Three's Company' and barely recognizable with Buddy Holly glasses and a weird hairdo) who is a homosexual and this is where 'Sling Blade' becomes important and symbolic.

The underlying message of this movie is tolerance and acceptance of those in our society and Thornton has directed the film with a quiet sense of maturity and surprising sensitivity. There are moments in the film of conflict and tension in which Carl is present but doesn't participate yet Thornton acts it out as if Carl understands all the while exactly what is going on but is powerless to do anything. There is wonderful use of the music score in 'Sling Blade' as a lot of the quiet and tender moments are blended together with soft tones of musical riffs which are barely audible at time but enhance the scenes they're in greatly and it's still hard to believe that in an age where the average film can cost thirty to forty million dollars to produce that Thornton had this one made for only one million dollars.

'Sling Blade' has earned Thornton 1997 Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Screenplay Adaptaion and they are nominations that are more than deserving and Thornton has established himself as a talented force to be associated with and the studios ought to take note of this man whose 'Sling Blade' will be a gem talked about for years to come.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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