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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 June 2013
A real labour of love from Billy Bob Thornton whose astonishing performance and beautiful direction make this superb drama pack an emotional punch that is rarely matched in modern US cinema.

Rock solid in its authenticity and with a masterful balance of the tough and the tender, 'Sling Blade' presents a smalltown cauldron of prejudice and simmering violence as it experiences the primeval challenge of recognising and responding to an unlikely force for positive change in the guise of Thornton's mentally disturbed character, and his innocent love for a lonely fatherless boy.

Almost a redneck take on aspects of the Beauty and the Beast legend, this manages to be both earthy and poetic at the same time, with great pace and a brilliant script that really allows the characters to live and breathe, and speak in believable rhythms that make sense of the inner turmoil that constantly threatens to imprison them.

A lengthy film filled with fantastic, almost epic-like, photography and attention to detail, that simply flies by as it envelops the viewer in its powerful spell. 'Sling Blade' achieves that rare but oh so satisfying balance of energy and contemplation, the real art of story-telling, that guarantees it a place in the finest of cinematic achievements.

Once seen, never forgotten.
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on 11 October 2004
Billy Bob Thornton may have been discovered, and rightly so, trough his masterful portrayal of an adult with learning difficulties.
The film focuses on his relationship with the people around him, his family - his father survives after the death of his mother and her lover but he has little interest in Thornton when he is released from care.
In the brilliantly scripted scenes shared between Thornton and his young companion in the film, there is a relationship growth. It buds from their, unfortunate, similar mental status but becomes something much more than friendship. They share thoughts and understand each other particularly well, and after getting over the intial shock of her son's 30+ year old friend, the boy's mother takes him in and treats him as family.
However the bigotted and aggressive bully played by Dwight Yoakam who infects the mother and son's life doesn't take well to Thornton and as a result the tension throughout the film is progressive and growing.
The film's ending is the perfect portrayal of why life can't ever end up the way we wish, but at the same time it shows insight into the real and genuinely good qualities of the human mind. Thornton's character's thought process to reach the conclusion of what he has to do in the end is evident, and touching.
I've never felt more thoughtful after watching something, it's a must have for anyone who has seen it and loved it on television or in the movies but also for anyone who hasn't seen it, and is yet to have their mindset altered by it.
The one role Billy Bob Thornton should have been given an Oscar for, a real pity he didn't.
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on 19 December 2016
Unbelievable: that's the story, the characters and their relationships with each other. Poor dialogue, over-acting and predictable storyline. Very very disappointing. So Billy Bob can stick his chin out 6 inches in front of his chest for 125 minutes or more? So what. Can't believe no rotten tomatoes were aimed at it. It was obvious at the end of the first scene what was going to happen at the end of the film. The only interesting, funny, accurate and believable scene in the entire film was the post band practice meeting; hilarious, and Billy Bob hardly moves and doesn't even say a word.
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on 24 January 2015
REVIEWED VERSION: 2009 Miramax US Blu-Ray

Director: Billy Bob Thornton

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, Dwight Yoakam, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Natalie Canerday, Rick Dial

Production: US 1996

SYNOPSIS

Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) has been in an Arkansas mental hospital since age of 12 for killing his mother and her lover - he actually thought the man was raping his mother. 20 years later he is deemed fit to be released into the outside world to start a new life in a small town.
Karl befriends a young boy, Frank (Lucas Black), and meets Karl's mother (Natalie Canerday) and her abusive boyfriend Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam). As Karl and Frank become closer friends, Doyle becomes more and more abusive and poses a serious threat to Frank and his mother...

THE PROS & CONS

SLING BLADE is without a doubt one of the best movies ever made. It was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, which it won and Best Actor (Thornton). It was made on a budget of $1,000,000 and grossed $24,444,121.
SLING BLADE is Billy Bob Thornton's full-length movie directing debut and he did a great job at it. He went on making the great ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.
What makes SLING BLADE a masterpiece however, is the superb cast: every single main cast member delivers a stunning performance, be it Dwight Yoakam as Doyle, whom you could just punch in the face repeatedly, John Ritter as the gay store manager, Lucas Black as Frank or Natalie Canerday as Frank's mother, it is Billy Bob Thornton however who completely steals the show. The fact that Billy Bob Thornton did NOT win the Best Actor Academy Award is one of the biggest mistakes in the Oscar history (and they have made so many)! I've seen a few of Thornton's movies before, and I barely recognized him in SLING BLADE, in which he delivers an amazing performance, and I mean AMAZING! I never would have thought him capable of such.
The script/screenplay by Billy Bob Thornton is flawless: Thornton created deep, real, three dimensional characters that actually "live", just brilliant. Most characters grow on you, you begin to love them. (Hey, Tarantino, THIS is a clever script with BRILLIANT characters! Come, watch how it's done!)
Despite the title of the film SLING BLADE is not a violent movie at all, there are no on-screen killings, the higher ratings result from the language used in the film.
Overall, SLING BLADE is a film that you will be amazed by from beginning to end and it is one of the very few films that come without flaws. I don't remember what film won the Best Movie Academy Award that year, but I sure believe SLING BLADE deserved it more! Highly recommended!

ON A SIDE NOTE

- based on the 1994 short film SOME FOLKS CALL IT A SLING BLADE which was directed by George Hickenlooper and written by Billy Bob Thornton, who also played Karl

- Billy Bob Thornton wrote the role of Vaughan Cunningham specifically for John Ritter

- to make his walk more awkward and consistent, Billy Bob Thornton placed crushed glass in his shoes

- Billy Bob Thornton considers Sling Blade to be the greatest movie he has ever made

- filmed mainly in Arkansas, except for the street scenes which were filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

BLU-RAY DETAILS

Feature running time: 134:40 mins. (uncut)
MPAA Rating: R (strong language, including descriptions of violent and sexual behavior)
BBFC Rating: 15 (strong language and moderate violence)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English DTS-HD 5.1, Spanish 2.0, German DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English HoH, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, German, Thai?, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese (traditional), Bulgarian, turkish
Extras: Audio Commentary, Mr. Thornton Goes To Hollywood (66:51), Bravo Profiles: Billy Bob Thornton (43:26), Roundtable Discussion (75:25), A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall (8:31), A Conversation with Robert Duval (7:35), A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Composer Daniel Lanois (22:59), The Return of Karl (3:40), On The Set 3 Featurettes (4:39) (1:46) (1:53), "Doyle's Dead" with Introduction by Thornton (4:23), several trailers to other movies
Region: Region Free

Picture quality: 4/5
Audio quality: 4/5
Extras: 5/5

A good Blu-Ray offers a really good picture quality and a good DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There's well over three hours of very informative bonus material and and an unusual amount of subtitles.
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'Karl' (Billy Bob Thornton) has been resident in a medical institution for many-many years after as still a child he killed both his Mother and her lover with a sling-blade.
The institution was his home, he felt safe within the walls, however release was part of the process when he was no longer considered a threat.
'Karl' had nowhere to go, no friends and no family that would be of assistance to him.
The govenor of the institution helps 'Karl' find work and somewhere to stay.
Seeing a young boy struggling with four heavy bags of washing, 'Karl' offers to help the lad take it home.
The two become friends, 'Frank' (Lucas Black) introduces 'Karl' to his mother 'Linda' (Natalie Canerday) who works at the local grocery store.
'Linda' offers 'Karl' a place to stay, trouble is 'Linda's' boyfriend 'Doyle' (Dwight Yoakam) an abusive drunk who young 'Frank' as baggage.
The enviroment isn't right for the Boy or indeed 'Karl'
This is an intense story which was only ever going to lead to one conclusion, however because of the individual and outstanding performances the film is certainly worth viewing.
( great sound quality, however the picture quality is 'DVD' ) ---but don't let that put you off.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 February 2014
This 1996 Arkansas-set tale of (essentially) bigotry and persecution written, directed and starring Billy Bob Thornton has a subtly authentic feel to it, no doubt at least partly as a result of Bob Thornton’s own rustic upbringing in the State. Of course, Sling Blade has been (rightly) lauded for Bob Thornton’s brilliant central turn as the slow-witted, straight-talking Karl Childers, however, the film also represents a remarkably assured directing debut, as well as containing a restrained, perceptive and darkly comic script (for which Bob Thornton won an Oscar).

Cinematically, Sling Blade is relatively unspectacular, with Barry Markowitz’s camera simply and straightforwardly depicting the film’s rural backdrop, whilst Daniel Lanois’ inventive original music provides a haunting, 'floating’ feel to proceedings. Having said this, Karl’s story is 'topped and tailed’ by two brilliantly atmospheric scenes (reminding me of Milos Forman’s classic One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) in which Karl is being 'talked at’ by fellow ‘patient’, the unsettling Charles Bushman (J T Walsh in a superbly creepy turn). It is, though, primarily via the strength of Bob Thornton’s turn as the disturbed Childers, whose dead-pan, innocent visage and nervy demeanour conceal a painfully troubled past, that the film scores most highly, as, on being discharged back into the community, he befriends the young Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black) and is 'adopted’ into his home with 'single mum’ Linda (Natalie Canerday) and her violently unstable boyfriend Doyle (an impressive Dwight Yoakam).

Of course, one can see the film’s denouement coming a mile off, but this does not detract from what is, for me at least, a highly engrossing (more than) two hour running time. As well as achieving much subtle poignancy (and tension) as Karl finds his way in his new community (guided largely by his readings of the Bible, 'the Lord works in mysterious ways’), Bob Thornton includes much dark humour, often based on Karl’s simple, oblivious take on life – such as during the hilarious café scene with John Ritter’s gay family friend Vaughan, in Karl’s ‘joke telling’ attempts or in the sequence where Linda attempts to 'pair off’ Karl with Christine Renée Ward’s ‘similarly characterised’ Melinda ('I liked walking with you, I got a blister the size of a quarter on one heel’). Most of the film’s powerful scenes are those between 'father-figure’ Karl and the young Frank (Black is Increasingly good in the role), as Karl reflects on the circumstances of his childhood, whilst a similar theme runs through his confrontation with his uncaring, hermit-like father (a cameo by Robert Duvall).

Whilst the film’s conclusion is predictable, macabre and a little melodramatic, Bob Thornton manages to control any sentimentality pretty well (and even throw in some final dark humour). Sling Blade is a compelling demonstration of Bob Thornton’s talent (following his other impressive acting turns in films like A Simple Plan, The Man Who Wasn’t There, One False Move and Monster’s Ball) – a (rounded) talent which I can’t help feeling has probably been under-exploited.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 September 2014
This is simply one of the best films I’ve ever watched. Of course, its contents immediately draws comparisons with the likes of, ‘Of Mice and Men’ or even ‘Forest Gump,’ though the story line is so very different.
There is something in us all that wants to protect a ‘simpleton’ and keep them out of harm’s way.
The lead performance is just perfection and whilst the film won a deserved Academy Award for the screenplay, the same for Billy Bob was unbelievably denied, though he did win ‘best actor’ from a whole host of other award groups.
The screenplay is just wonderful; it’s touching, hard hitting and at times hilarious. The film is quite long at two hours twenty, but not once was I bored, in fact I was totally engrossed- and that’s how it grabs you.
I don’t want to give away an inch of the plot, I would just urge anyone who hasn’t seen it yet – to do so - ASAP - with some fries!
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on 18 June 2013
A real labour of love from Billy Bob Thornton whose astonishing performance and beautiful direction make this superb drama pack an emotional punch that is rarely matched in modern US cinema.

Rock solid in its authenticity and with a masterful balance of the tough and the tender, 'Sling Blade' presents a smalltown cauldron of prejudice and simmering violence as it experiences the primeval challenge of recognising and responding to an unlikely force for positive change in the guise of Thornton's mentally disturbed character, and his innocent love for a lonely fatherless boy.

Almost a redneck take on aspects of the Beauty and the Beast legend, this manages to be both earthy and poetic at the same time, with great pace and a brilliant script that really allows the characters to live and breathe, and speak in believable rhythms that make sense of the inner turmoil that constantly threatens to imprison them.

A lengthy film filled with fantastic, almost epic-like, photography and attention to detail, that simply flies by as it envelops the viewer in its powerful spell. 'Sling Blade' achieves that rare but oh so satisfying balance of energy and contemplation, the real art of story-telling, that guarantees it a place in the finest of cinematic achievements.

Once seen, never forgotten.
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on 23 June 2005
Sling Blade (1996) paints an amazing picture of lost innocence and morality that is not beaten by many other films that try to convey the same images. The mood created by such tender directing is so inflicting and heart-wrenching that it is hard not to look at this film in a way to deem it simply a mix of acting and random plots, but as a fantastic culmination of Carl Childers' (Billy Bob Thornton) enigma and his friend Frank Wheatley's (Lucas Black) gentle natured ways, which seem to rub off on Carl as they form a tender friendship that ends up in some absolutely heart-breaking stories being told, as they confide in each other and Carl makes a plan to end the life of Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam) who is the bullying force disrupting their lives.
Oh by the way I think I'll tell you now that Carl was locked up in a Mental Institution for twenty years beforebeing released into the community and making this relationship, which is touching and so brilliantly shot on camera.
This film won an oscar for screenplay, but it was well overlooked and underestimated, it definitely deserved more.

My only advice can be - watch it. (There's even a cameo from Robert Duvall)
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on 25 March 2015
It's years since I saw this film,and then only once,but it's stuck in my mind ever since and I've waited years for it to be repeated but it never has,so I was delighted when I saw it for sale on zoverstocks site.I was a bit nervous that I'd built it up in my memory to be more than it was but I needn't have worried! The story was just as powerful as I remembered,and the relationship between Karl and Frank just as warm and honest and heartfelt as i could ever have imagined.When Karl makes the decision to protect Frank and his mother from her abusive boyfriend,knowing that it would ultimately lead to him being returned to the state hospital where he's spent most of his life,it's both heartbreaking and uplifting,showing that some stories do have a happy ending,albeit one that breaks your heart a little and stays in the mind long after the credits have rolled.
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