on June 20, 2004
Sling Blade starts out at a mental home where Karl, played by Thornton, is being released after 25 years. He killed his mother and a boyfriend after he caught them having sex and he didn't think it seemed right. But Karl is deemed to be safe for society and he is also a man with a good heart that when asked if he will do it again replies,"I don't reckon I got no reason to kill nobody." Karl, by the way is somewhat mentally challenged. So it is time to be released, and Karl returns to the town he used to call home with no place to go and no one to return to (except a father who will not recognize him).
Karl befriends a young boy named Frank, and the two are friends from the start. Both of them share some of the same emotional issues, but in Frank's case it is due to his mother's abusive boyfriend Doyle (played by Dwight Yoakam). Karl gets a job working on small engines at a local garage and lives there for a while, but Frank and his mother agree it would be good for Karl to live with them. From the first time Karl meets Doyle, he begins to see what a terrible person he is. Doyle is constantly belittling Frank and Vaughn (a friend of Frank's mother who is gay), and is verbally and physically abusive to Linda (Frank's mom). Karl appears to be a very simple man, but it is apparent that his mind is always at work analyzing the people around him. Doyle grows worse and worse, and Karl becomes increasingly fed up with him. Karl always remains calm no matter the situation, but we start to see that he is the only one who can make things better for Linda, Frank and Vaughn and that as the movie progresses Karl realizes something must be done. I will spare you the ending, but the final conflict revolves around Karl's love for Frank and Linda and with him making a choice, a choice that could send him back to the mental hospital.
This is an incredible movie that deserves all of the notariety is has collected since its release. It won many awards, and deservingly so. There is a little bit of dark comedy here, some tragedy (like when Karl is talking about his brother he had to bury when he was just born), but most of all it is a disturbing examination of internal conflict in one simple man that really is a good guy at heart. It is pretty disturbing at times, so you have been warned. The movie is nothing short of perfect though and it is definately one that you need to see in your lifetime.
on June 16, 2004
Thornton portrays a man whose apparent stupidity masks a deeper understanding of morals and circumstance than the common man. Everyone treats him as, and calls him, a "retard", yet he sits in his own presence watching and learning...taking in his surroundings to figure out who is decent, and who isnn't. He just wants to get on with his life, yet, he befriends a young boy by happenstance who he can relate to through common toils and emotion, who he can share his innermost thoughts and dark history with, and who he can - within his own diminished capacity- protect in full with his own paternal....no fraternal....regards.
This movie will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you cringe. But it won't let you go until you see it in its entirety, and question the fact - is it okay to kill if it's for a better cause?
on September 21, 2013
This movie to Billy Bob Thornton is what "Dances With Wolves" is to Kevin Costner....simply the best work he's ever done and probably will ever do...I can't see Mr Thorton outdoing this absolutely fantastic film. Written, directed and acted by Thorton, the viewer quickly becomes involved in the character of Carl, a mentally handicapped man & the people he meets and becomes involved with & forget that it's Mr Thornton in the staring role. Superb acting throughout the film, believable characters & a story that will tear at your heart. You will love to hate Dwight Yokum as the abusive boyfriend involved with the family who befriends Carl & will be touched by John Ritter in his last movie role. A superb film by anyone's standards, I would rate it a 5 +++++ if I could.
on May 8, 2004
Normally, movies that are written, directed and star the same person have some fatal flaw due to over-control and a lack of another voice of reason. However, in this case, Billy Bob Thorton put together a great movie.
Billy Bob's portrayal of "Karl", a retarded man who killed his mother and lover as a child, is one of the best characters ever on screen. With his high-water pants, bad haircut, underslung grin and gravelly voice, he's not someone you'll soon forget.
A finely acted film, even the smallest parts were well-done. Suprisingly, John Ritter (an actor who I can not normally watch), gave the finest performance of his career as a gay store manager. Dwight Yoakum was great as the abusive boyfriend, and Lucas Black was good as the kid. J.T Walsh, Robert Duvall, and James Hampton are also in it.
This is not a Disney type plot, and there is a fair amount of swearing and yelling, and some violence. It all is natural to the story however, and the dialogue is some of the best you'll hear anywhere.
I don't give out 5 stars to movies very often. Mmm-hmmm.
on September 16, 2003
I finally saw this movie days ago. I can't really say why I had avoided it for so long, but I wish I hadn't. What a movie!
The script is absolutely amazingly written. The dialogue is tremendous and doesn't feel scripted at all.
The direction is extremely well done. No jumpy, trendy camera changes, and beautiful solo shots that really help to develop the characters.
The absolute high point is the acting. Everyone in this movie is tremendous. Thornton does such an amazing job, that it's hard to believe it's him. Which I think is the greatest thing an actor can do, make you forget its them. The young boy (Lucas Black) is unbelievable. Long scenes are usually impossible with children, but there are some very long shots that he comes through without error. Terrific. Yoakam as the abusive boyfriend does an excellent job, second only to Thornton. Ritter(r.i.p.) plays the gay friend of the boy and his mother without a hokey flamboyance or any stereotypical nonsense, great performance. Canerday is great as the boy's mother, she portrays he character with utter realism (a woman that knows her situation is awful, but doesn't know how to deal with it).
This is film-making at it's finest. The script, direction, and acting are all tremendous. I would recommend this film to anyone that wants to see a great movie.
on July 5, 2003
Sling Blade is an excellent, thought-provoking story about one man's return to society after being released from a mental instituation.
One of the great aspects of the film is simply Billy Bob Thornton's portrayel of Karl. Returning to the town he called home after 25 years in an institution, Karl must start life anew. Karl's simple nature is quite deceptive; althougth he has a calm and monotone manner about him, he is truly a complex individual who contemplates each person and situation from both sides before morally judging it. He is one of the more memorable characters because of his unique mannerisms (trust me, you may find yourself grunting the words "french fried potaters") and his plain honesty (he openly tells the boy he befriends exactly why he was locked up). Thornton, who also directed the film, does a masterful job at "becoming" the character of Karl.
The film delves into a vas range of issues that pervade our world: physical and psychological abuse, abandonment, acceptability of individualism. What makes the film unique is that these subjects are analyzed both internally (Karl calmly interalizing an argument between Linda, Frank and Doyle; Karl listening to another mental patient describe his crimes) and externally (Vaughan confronting Karl about his sexual orientation and love for Frank's family; Karl telling Vaughan that, despite what the Bible says, he is a good man). We feel the turmoil of vastly different individuals and personalities all trying to live under one roof.
One underlying question that pervades from the film is "what truly is a good human being?" That is, what qualities certify a benevolent individual versus, say, a reckless person. While the story has mostly inheritantly good charcters, Karl possesses characteristics that make him both good and bad (he has obviously murdered before, yet he seems to know the difference between good and bad). While Doyle (Linda's boyfriend) is depicted as a relatively abusive and flat character (one stereotype cannot hurt a film that much), Karl becomes a somewhat transformed individual who is symbolically altered due to his new relationship with Frank and his mother.
Overall, this was a quite touching, emotional story from Thornton. Although over 2 hours in length, the story progresses rather rapidly. It is told with a simple intention and premise, yet it is a film that is deeply complex.
on May 2, 2003
Karl (Billy Bob Thornton) was just released after serving 25 years for committing a brutal violent crime as youngster. Karl is a very simple man and keeps to himself but is very eccentric. Shortly after returning home, he makes a few friends and even gets a job. Karl's only desire is to live a very simple and peaceful life, but there are a few things which he did not anticipate which could possibly bring him back to the same place where he spent most of his life.
Just something to ponder on... prisons and hopitals don't rehabilitate. A person who sincerely wishes to change must take a hard and deep look at himself and within himself. This film really got me thinking about how certain things that happened to me as a child still happen to me as an adult. All of us undoubtely have undesirable traits which have gotten us into trouble since we were children and we are destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over unless we get to the root of the problem. Most of us never get to the root of the problem because we are too busy finding fault with others.
on April 22, 2003
This review is going to be primarily a 'review' of Thornton's performance as Carl in Sling Blade. I'm just shocked that he lost the Academy Award for this performance, it's just one of the all time great performances. What he does here is shed all characteristics of Billy Bob, shed any recognizable characteristics of Billy Bob and become, transform into a character. It's actually similar, but much better than Dustin Hoffman's Academy Award winning turn as Rain Man. For my money though, Billy Bob's work here transcends Hoffman's work in Rain Man. Both create a sympathetic tragedy, that we cannot help but love. The difference however lies in the face. When watching Rain Man, we're watching Dustin Hoffman play a character. When watching Sling Blade, we're watching Carl. Just look at his unchanging face, full of care, beauty, exhuberance. Billy Bob is really out of his league here. If anyone ever argues with me that he's not one of the best actors working today, I will always point them to Sling Blade, and The Man Who Wasn't There. Breathtaking work. Of course he's not up there with Robert DeNiro, or Marlon Brando, but he has the ability to truly transform himself into a character. For that, I recommend you rent Sling Blade immediately.
on April 22, 2003
With the parodies and jokes surrounding the lead character of this film stating, "I like the way you talk," I was not expecting this film to be anything I'd be impressed with. Boy, was I wrong. This a fantastic film.
Billy Bob Thornton plays Karl Childers, a man about to be released from a mental hospital after staying there for 30 years. Karl killed his own mother and her lover when he was only about 12 years old and you wonder from the beginning of this film - why are they letting him out?
Some people call him slow, some people say he's retarded - but as each scene comes and goes, you realize that there is a lot more going on inside Karl's head than anyone else believes.
While autism is not mentioned by name in the film, it's obvious that this character was modeled after an autistic person. He does not maintain eye contact and rarely exhibits emotion or speaks.
He returns to his childhood hometown after being released from the hospital and puts his mechanical skills to good use as a small engine wiz at a local mechanic shop.
He befriends Frank (Lucas Black), a young boy who reminds Karl of the kind of life he could have had, if he had only had different parents. Frank's mother has a psycho for a boyfriend (masterfully played by Dwight Yoakum) who treats Frank and his mother like garbage and threatens to kill them if the relationship ever ends.
Small town folks have big hearts, but sometimes small minds. Frank's mother (Natalie Camerday) has a best friend who is gay (well acted by John Ritter) and he must hide his relationships from the townsfolk. Her friend Vaughn wants to go to a a bigger city with wider acceptance of his lifestyle, but he continues to stay to act as a guardian angel for his friend and her son.
As Karl meets and interacts with the new friends (and enemies) he meets, he reveals some of his darker secrets with his friend, Frank. While he shows almost no emotion, Karl's story evokes tears from all but the most stony-hearted viewer. He not only feels great pain of what he has experienced and what he has done, he feels great empathy for Frank and his mother and holds their friendship dear to his heart.
There is violence in the film, but the most violent of scenes is just audible - nothing is seen, just heard. This film is too intense for young viewers, but teenagers should have no problem with it.
This film really makes you think - about what goes on in the minds of those who are mentally different in any way - and how all emotions are universal.
on January 1, 2003
This movie won the Academy Award for best screenplay, and it's very easy to see why it was deserving of the acclaim that it received.
The movie centers around Carl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton), a mentally retarded man who has just been released from a mental hospital after spending most of his life there. He's a convicted murderer who killed his own mother and her lover, but the audience is made to love him from the beginning and feel sympathy for his situation. He befriends a young boy named Frank who is being raised by a single mother who has an abusive boyfriend. The movie centers around the growing friendship between Carl and Frank, and how Carl decides to take matters into his own hands in order to protect Frank and his mother from the abusive boyfriend.
The strength of this movie is in the acting job by Thornton. His character is a cross between Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird (by Harper Lee) and Lenny from Of Mice And Men (by John Steinbeck). While the audience is suspicious of Carl at the beginning of the movie because of his history, we are quickly assured that he is extremely gentle and kind. Also of note is the performance by Dwight Yoakam as the abusive boyfriend. You'll really hate his character, which obviously means that Yoakam did a great acting job.
Overall, this is an excellent movie. It's definitely worth seeing.