A movie directed by Frank Darabont
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Robert Duvall Diredted by: Billy Bob Thornton Written By: Billy Bob Thornton 1996 Product Description The … see full wiki
The film starts with Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) being released from the State Hospital (a mental ward) and telling his story to two young college student reporters. Karl is retarded, and spent his childhood in a dirt-floored shed in back of his parents house – they didn't want him in the house and treated him like an animal they'd picked up. Around the age of ten or twelve he caught his mother having sex with a bully from his school and he mistakenly thought his mother was being raped. So he killed the boy, Jesse Dickson, with a sling blade. When he found out his mother "didn't mind what Jesse was a'doin to her", he killed her too.
Freshly released from the hospital, Karl returns to his hometown but "doesn't know how to be a free man". He helps a young boy, Frank (Lucas Black) carry his laundry home and the two become fast friends. He gets a job, with help, working at a small engine repair shop. Karl is like an idiot-savant, hardly able to live on his own but a genius at fixing small engines. "Lawnmowers and whatnot". Frank's mother Linda (Natalie Canerday) invites Karl to stay in their garage instead of out in back of the repair shop, so Karl moves in.
There's just one problem. Linda's boyfriend, Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam) is a mean, intolerant man. He hates Frank, and abuses Linda and Frank verbally nonstop. He doesn't like a "mental retard" living in Linda's garage. He also doesn't like Linda's best friend Vaughan Cunningham (John Ritter), the gay manager of the dollar store Linda works at. Doyle can't even get along with his own friends.
'Sling Blade' is the story of Karl's "free" life and his friendship with Frank. It's a story of awakenings, one that will leave you breathless with the beauty of it. It's about the purest form of love, and the ugliest side of domestic abuse. I was deeply moved by the hidden bravery of Vaughan, who's terrified of Doyle but stands up for Linda and Frank even though he knows he's incapable of physically defending them. There's the quiet reflectiveness of Karl, who's spent a lifetime inside his own head and now has to deal with people on a daily basis. You'll see the "battered women's syndrome" in Linda, a kind soul who only sees the beauty in every person, even Doyle. And there's the viciousness of Doyle, from his everyday spoken words to his threats to beat and kill Linda, Frank, and Vaughan.
The acting in this movie is outstanding. Billy Bob Thornton, who also wrote and directed the movie, is amazing as Karl. He's honestly captured the motions, speech, and spirit of the mentally challenged Karl. And where the heck did Dwight Yoakam learn to act so well? He gives a stunning performance as the sadistic Doyle, he makes the role as real as life, and absolutely amazing performance. Yoakam's performance and Thornton's writing really captured the unexpected violence of the domestic abuser, the "walking on eggshells" routine those around them must live. Yoakam and Thornton are both naturals in front of the camera. There's also a short cameo appearance by Robert Duvall as Karl's father.
The question is, can Karl save Linda and Frank from a life of abuse under Doyle's cruel behavior? In the end, will he sacrifice himself for them? Just how much love does Karl have for the boy he's become so attached to?
I can't recommend this movie highly enough. It's a low budget film that introduced Billy Bob Thornton into the filmmaking industry, as a writer, director, and actor. The talent in this film is astonishing. It's never dull or slow. This is a film I believe that everyone should watch, no matter what your genre preferences are. Ten Stars! Enjoy!
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