In 1994, then unknown Billy Bob Thornton made a short film titled, “Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade.” The short film is about a man named, Karl Childers who reveals his troubled past about a double murder he committed. Two Years Later, Billy expanded the short into a full fledged independent film under the name, “Sling Blade.” Miramax bought the film rights for $10 million. A huge paycheck for a first time film director.
Sling Blade was released in 1996. (same year Mathilda came out) It received critical acclaim from critics and movie goers alike. Besides unanimous praise, the film made enough money at the box office. Billy Bob Thornton ultimately won an Oscar for “Best Adapted Screenplay.” Sling Blade spawned numerous parodies and memes. The film propelled Billy into stardom.
The reason I wanted to share my thoughts on Sling Blade, is because Awards Season is ongoing until “The 2022 Oscars“ air. Goliath’s final season is streaming on Amazon Prime. Billy’s next film is The Russo Brothers’ CIA action thriller starring Chris Evans & Ryan Gosling titled, “The Gray Man.”
Today’s review contains no crucial SPOILERS. I’m gonna give some of you folks a chance to see Sling Blade. Is it a masterpiece? Let’s find out shall we?
Sharp & Rusty Qualities
Sharp: Billy Bob Thornton did an excellent job carrying the film as Karl Childers. He also took full responsibility writing the script and directing.
Other Cast Members such as Dwight Yoakam, Lucas Black (Sean Boswell from The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift) & the late John Ritter all did a fantastic job for their respective performances.
Robert “Rob” Duvall makes a brief appearance as Karl’s father. Rob worked with James Earl Jones in “A Family Thing.” Billy wrote the script for the aforementioned film.
Cinematography never had any technical problems.
Chemistry between Karl & Frank serves as the main highlight. Their friendship shapes the story forward.
Karl’s monologue in the opening scene talking about his troubled childhood sets the story in motion.
Prior to the murders from his childhood, we learn more about Karl’s troubled past.
Although labeled as a drama, the film has some funny moments. Especially that one scene with Doyle and his bandmates performing outside disturbing one neighbor who sounds a lot like Yosemite Sam.
If you own a DVD copy, audio commentary reveals more in-depth details.
Sling Blade is primarily set in Arkansas where Billy grew up.
The film expands the short story with Karl leaving the mental hospital. He gets a job repairing small equipment, bonds with a boy named, Frank, his mother and a kind dollar store manager. Karl also faces the wrath of Doyle.
Character Development involving Karl. As the film progresses, he learns to stand up for himself and cares about the people he meets.
Four characters’ last word on camera is “Karl.” It’s all tied to a pivotal scene.
Prosthetic Makeup transformed Billy into Karl. He also wore crushed glass under his shoes to simulate Karl’s awkward footing.
If you wanna spice things up a bit, try partaking in a drinking game. Drink every time Karl says the words “french fried potatoes,” “alright then,” “you just a boy,” “I reckon” and his grunt “Mmmm-Hmmm.” Stick to water or non-alcoholic beverages. I don’t promote alcohol poisoning.
Doyle mentioned he hates antique furniture. In real life, Billy has a phobia of antique furniture. I know it sounds weird. If you want proof, he talked about his fear on “Oprah.”
Primary themes are Friendship & Troubled Childhood. Both themes are handled maturely.
Jim Jarmusch makes a cameo appearance. He directed Billy in “Dead Man.” Sadly, it has nothing to do with the DC Comics superhero.
Without giving anything away, The Ending is bittersweet yet satisfying.
Rusty: I couldn’t find any problems. I’m giving Billy an Extra Point for making a flawless movie as possible.
The Final Verdict: A, FOR APEX!
From my perspective, Sling Blade is arguably Billy Bob Thornton’s best work. Some of the positive stuff listed, indicates why Sling Blade is a masterpiece and one of the best movies of 1996 next to my number one pick, “Independence Day.” If you’re in the mood for Awards Season like me, I strongly recommend Sling Blade.