Sling Blade
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: -2

This fascinating drama is a triple triumph for Billy Bob Thornton. He wrote and directed the film in addition to his fascinating performance that should be considered for some awards. He plays Karl Childers, a mildly retarded man who has spent 25 years in an Arkansas mental hospital. He's there for murdering his mother and her lover when he was only 12 years old. Finally released when the state determines he's no longer a threat, Karl returns to his hometown and gets a job at a repair shop. He strikes up a friendship with 12-year-old Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black), a kind boy who looks past Karl's mental deficiencies, and Frank's compassionate mother Linda (Natalie Canerday) invites Karl to live in her garage. Linda's foul-mouthed, abusive boyfriend Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam) doesn't like this arrangement, and Karl isn't happy about the way Doyle treats Linda and Frank. Beneath his gravely voice and blank expression, one senses that Karl has a loving heart for his new friends. However, one senses an ominous feeling that confrontation between good and evil is inevitable. SLING BLADE is a compelling story with interesting characters and some fine dramatic tension.

Although an undercurrent of violence exists throughout the film because of Karl's history, the murderous incident of his youth is illustrated only through dialogue. Doyle is a threatening presence, although his on-screen violence is limited to some shoving and verbal threats. A brutal murder climaxes the story, but it's suggested only by a partial view and revealing sounds. Vaughn (John Ritter), Linda's friend and employer, is a homosexual, although no homosexual behavior is shown. For dinner at his house, Vaughn's homosexual friend is among the invited guests. Although his parents treated him cruelly, Karl received some spiritual training. He reads the Bible and has a basic understanding of its laws. Doyle's mean spirit is also revealed when he uses many crudities, obscenities and regular profanities, but the character could have been just as threatening without these words. The offensive language is the only aspect of this fine drama that would disqualify it for discriminating viewers.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Distributor: Miramax Films, 375 Greenwich, New York, NY 10013

Crude Language: Many (42) times - Mild 18, Moderate 24
Obscene Language: Many (48) times - F-word 24, s-word 11, other 13
Profanity: Many (15) times - Regular 14 (GD 11, G 2, J 1), Exclamatory 1
Violence: Few times - Moderate (man threatens boy and woman, boy throws things at man, violent murder suggested)
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: Male homosexual character; homosexual partner joins him for dinner
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Man describes experience with prostitute
Drug Abuse: Beer and alcohol drinking, characters become intoxicated; smoking
Other: Character talks about reading the Bible and godly values; character is baptized
Running Time: Unknown
Intended Audience: Adults

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