Posted by: benherst | October 7, 2009

“Sling Blade” Movie Review

Sling Blade

            How does one act when a murderer grasping a hammer wakes you up in the middle of the night?  That is what Doyle (Dwight Yoakam) and Linda (Natalie Canerday) wonder after Karl (Billy Bob Thornton) alarms them one night.  However, the question should not be taken out of context, as Karl’s character is a mentally disturbed and troubled individual.  The movie “Sling Blade” follows his quest to renew his past life and survive in a Deep-South small town society.  As Karl attempts to make a life for himself, he must also defend the lives of those he loves.

            Karl Childers has spent the majority of his life in a mental asylum after killing his mother and her lover at the age of twelve.  Still mentally debilitated, but no longer considered to be a threat to humanity, Karl is released and drifts back to his dreary hometown.  He befriends Frank, a local boy who invites Karl to move in with him and his mother, Linda.  Through them and Vaughan, a homosexual friend, he confides his dark past.  Fortunately for Karl, they are receptive and supportive, much unlike Doyle, Linda’s macho and abusive boyfriend.  “Sling Blade” captures the uneasy situation that Karl faces as his psychological differences clash with the element of fate, forcing him to sacrifice nearly everything.

            From a cinematic perspective, “Sling Blade” tackles a complex plotline – contrasting mental differences, gender differences, sexuality differences, and class differences.  Written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, the movie focuses heavily upon Karl’s seemingly intricate, yet simple, thought process.  It is through Karl’s raspy voice and uncomplicated views (“I was thinkin’, I’m gonna take me some of these taters home with me”) that his character is developed.  Ultimately, the movie revolves upon the final murder scene, a pulsating climax steeped in revenge and poetic justice.

            Though “Sling Blade” is an Academy Award-winning film that ushered Billy Bob Thornton into stardom, a near-unbearable amount of the plot is simply background information or developmental dialogue.  This makes for an unnecessarily long and monotonous story, all building up to the final few minutes of significance.  Therefore, this film should only be recommended to those seeking a heavy storyline with a deranged twist.  Nevertheless, the film’s acting is uniquely phenomenal, as several characters are portrayed in ways that accentuate their respective flaws (such as the abusive boyfriend and Karl’s father).  However, the distinct characters barely rescue a straightforward and predictable plot.

            Overall, as Karl fights his mental state and bonds with Frank, “Sling Blade” portrays the stubborn nature of man trapped in the freedom of society.  A blunt representation of good opposite evil, the characters emphasize sweet connections and bitter disparities.  For some, these conflicts are worth sacrificing the pleasant bonds for.  As a hammer-toting Karl foreshadows during the midnight wake-up scene, he is conflicted all along.

Sling Blade

Sling Blade

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