Sling Blade DVD Review - www.impuslegamer.com -

Feature 8.0
Video 7.5
Audio 7.5
Special Features   1.5
Total 7.5
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Running Time:
135 minutes
Classification:
 MA15+
Reviewer:
Erin Marcon

7.5
not an average


Sling Blade (1996)

Billy Bob Thornton writes, directs and stars in this feature length extrapolation of his acclaimed 1994 short film ‘Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade.’  

The film opens with the release of Karl Childers from the mental institution that has been his home for the past 25 years.  Thornton’s portrayal of Karl, complete with deformed posture and guttural southern drawl, is as convincing as it is bizarre.  Initially we are disturbed by his repetitive mannerisms and aversion to human contact.  Our concerns grow dramatically when we discover that he brutally slew his own mother.  However, such is Thornton’s appeal, that we are soon enchanted by this seemingly harmless character that wants for nothing more than to tinker with broken lawnmowers and enjoy regular servings of French fried potatoes. 

Within days of his release, Karl befriends a young boy named Frank (Lucas Black) and his mother Linda (Natalie Canerday).  Soon thereafter he moves into the family home and begins to build a life for himself.  Linda’s boyfriend, the sinister Doyle, is brought to life by country music icon Dwight Yoakam.  Doyle’s achievements include intimidating Linda and Frank and assaulting a wheelchair-bound friend.  In a welcome irony, he is also a guitarist in a laughably poor country and western group. 

Doyle, perhaps unrealistically, represents the only challenge that Karl must face during his assimilation into society.  The inevitability of their conflict will enrich the film for some while diminishing it for others. It permeates every scene (even those sans Doyle) and lends a much needed edge to a film that occasionally drifts towards whimsy.  Those yearning for unexpected twists, however, will be sorely disappointed. 

The world of ‘Sling Blade’ is an affectionate tribute to semi-rural life in the American south.  These southerners are portrayed as kind, generous and progressive.  The one character that demonstrates intolerance towards homosexuals and the mentally disabled is well and truly cast in the role of the villain.  Is this an accurate portrayal of the south or an indication of its aspirations?  Regardless, it serves as an interesting counterpoint to the stereotype. 

‘Sling Blade’ establishes Thornton as a powerful actor and storyteller.  He won an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for ‘Sling Blade,’ and it could be argued that his acting is equally deserving of recognition.  The supporting cast are also excellent.  J.T. Walsh in particular is macabre as the sadistic murderer who attempts to befriend Karl while virtual unknown Rick Dial is immensely entertaining as Karl’s affable employer. 

Don’t miss this tremendous yarn. 

While ‘Sling Blade’ is a truly endearing film, the same cannot be said for the additional features.  The behind-the-scenes gestation of a low-budget gem often makes for fascinating viewing.  Unfortunately we’ll have to make do with a theatrical trailer and a collection of nine completely unenlightening production stills. 






 
 



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