Sling Blade

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Billy Bob Thornton

REVIEWED: 07-21-97

Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J.T.Walsh, John Ritter.

Last year's most memorable screen voice (Thornton reportedly had daily migraines from keeping his jaw set) becomes one of this year's most memorable videos, as the gravel-voiced Karl Childers takes to the small screen for his "mustard 'n french fried pertaters." Thornton (who won an Oscar for adapting his 1993 short film) lulls the viewer into a state of calm with his tale of small town life in Arkansas, where the Frostee Cream is just about the most happening thing going. But with Karl, an unknown element given his 25-year history in the local "nervish hospital," something dark and disturbing awaits us just under the surface. When something erupts, Thornton's writing can be seen at the top of its form -- a form that he's been hit-and-miss with in earlier films like One False Move and A Family Thing, but is perfectly in stride with in Sling Blade. While Thornton masterfully conjures up beautiful images and touches on themes of friendship, love, and morality, the film never falls into the sappy sentimentality of movies like Forrest Gump. Is it a classic in our time? "Mmm-hmmm."

--Christopher Null

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