Karl Childers is a mentally disabled man who has been in the custody of the state mental hospital since the age of 12 for killing his mother and her lover. Although thoroughly institutionalized, Karl is deemed fit to be released into the outside world.
***When a murderer is the likable protagonist, mmm-hmm*** A simple, slow, seemingly pensive man (Billy Bob Thornton) is released from a mental hospital in central Arkansas after 30 years and gets a job fixing lawnmowers. He makes friends with a boy & his mother (Natalie Canerday) and they let him live in their garage, but the mother’s abusive boyfriend presents a problem (Dwight Yoakam). John Ritter is on hand as the mother’s gay best friend. "Sling Blade" (1996) is a small town drama with a memorable central character (if I didn’t know beforehand that Thornton played the role, I wouldn’t have recognized him). The characters and their situations smack of real life while the unhurried story is interesting enough. There are well-done moments of meditation and revelation, as well as touching ones. It’s a tad overlong, however, and the politically correct glorification of Vaughan (Ritter) is eye-rolling. Karl (Thornton) observes that “The Bible says two men ought not lay together. But I don't reckon the Good Lord would send anybody like you to Hades.” Yet his opining doesn’t mean much since he candidly acknowledges elsewhere that he doesn’t understand a lot of the Scriptures, not to mention his foolish predilection for murder to solve mundane problems. He should stick to fixing lawnmowers and eating them French fried potaters, mmm-hmm. The film runs 2 hours, 15 minutes, and was shot in Benton & nearby Haskell, Arkansas, which are about 20-30 minutes southwest of Little Rock. GRADE: B-