1996 / Director. Billy Bob Thornton
Every few years a modest little film will come along and confront you with a career launching performance. Recently there's been films like Winter's Bone, Frozen River and Beasts of the Southern Wild... back in 1996 we had Sling Blade; written, staring & directed by Billy Bob Thornton. His performance as the mentally retarded matricidal killer, Karl Childers, is one he will never be likely to top. He is outstanding! Having spent all of his adult life in a psychiatric hospital Karl is eventually released and left to fend for himself in the outside world. He befriends a 12 year old boy and is soon taken him by the boy's mother. A strong bond is formed and while Karl makes a best friend, the boy embraces his new father figure. There is so much that is wonderful about Sling Blade... the script is outstanding, the cinematography captures the southern life beautifully and every single performance is flawless. The character parallels between Karl and the boy are written sincerely and themes of domestic violence, mental health and of history repeating are addressed intelligently. John Ritter is particularly excellent as the mother's homosexual best friend. Running at 130 minutes I am always to drawn into this story and I could keep watching for longer. Thornton, however, doesn't overstay his welcome and the film's story is paced nicely with great bookended opening and closing scene featuring the late, great JT Walsh. If you're studying scriptwriting or film, this is one definitely worth consuming. It's perfect in every way.